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"the old 'UN " AND " WAI.I.KR " ; THK TWO WORST 

^^ SPORTING .^,:° 

OF AN OLD 'UN ^^^ 


Anthtr tf " RtmimtcttKCS of an Old ' Un," etc., etc. 







I HATE prefaces. Nevertheless I should be 

sadly lacking in both gratitude and good manners 

were I to neglect to emphasize most warmly the 

exceeding courtesy and kindness I have received 

from my friends Mr. Cook, the editor of T^he 

Fields and Mr. Huskinson, the editor of The 

Tatler, who have graciously permitted me to 

reproduce in this volume a few things that have 

already appeared in their well-known and widely 

read pages, 

F. N. S. 

Hevtr Cottage, Edenbridge, 
January igij. 




Return to England after ten years' absence in South Africa — 
Gun, cricket-bat and fishing-rod come readily to hand — 
Shooting — Its social aspect — What Archie Stuart 
VVortley has to say about it — A dose for the liver in the 
silent watches of the night — Royalty expected but 
didn't come : result— Comic aspect of shooting — 
Aldeborontiphoscophornio and his master — Where does 
the fun come in for those who miss nineteen shots out 
of every twenty ? — Greedy shots — Now that is as it 
should be — Roosevelt as a big-game hunter — Grouse 
driving i, partridge driving 2, covert shooting 3, rough 
winter shooting 4, also ran, shooting outsides in October 
— Swaledale, farewell ! ...... i 


Easy grouse driving at Pitford — Partridge driving — A good 
day's walk over a shot-out beat — Two invitations for 
partridge driving — Lunch at one of 'em — Driving in 
West Kent — Typical day at the end of the season — 
" Come out, you little beggar, and join in the sport " — 
Walking up partridges — A good but solitary day in the 
Holmesdale Valley — Count de Baillet and some '84 
Ayala. ......... 32 


Grouse shooting over dogs — The Cuchullins in the distance 
— The " Dragooner, " the writer and a keeper — Five 
guns to one dog, the best sprinter annexes the shooting 
— Bob and shove-halfpenny — -Folk who count their 
shots, kills and misses, how do they do it ? — A rough 
shooting — In the old Clattsman to Ardlussa — -A month 
in Jura — Woodcocks — A yeld hind — O Lord ! two yeld 
hinds ! — Curtain — Deerhounds, Cavack — A magnifi- 
cent chase in Jura . 57 





My host and nephew "S — M" — Oransay — Shooting of the 
most varied description in Colonsay and Oransay — 
" Waller ! " God bless his brown eyes and black curly 
coat — A trifle of an upset at the edge of " the strand " 
one evening — Archie appears nervous on wheels and 
also a little later on in a boat — Oransay Priory and St. 
Columba — The McNeills — The mermaids of Oransay, 
otherwise seals — Dhu Heartach lighthouse — A very 
narrow shave for a shipwreck on Eilan-nau-Rou — 
Everlasting wind — A sorrowful upset thereby — S — M's 
crowners, /. e. Some of 'em — Hangman's Hill and its 
ancient rocky gallows. . . . . . • 77 


Shooting in distant lands — Ignorance of the ordinary 
colonist as to sport and natural history — Guinea-fowl — 
Spiny-tailed ducks — Madagascar goose — Sand-grouse 
and their habits — Snipe the " Spookbird " — A day 
after snipe at Noneye's V\ey — Another Mistress Gilpin 
of frugal mind — Quail — A very long and tough journey 
by a man, and the Lord was on his side — Another by 
a woman when He wasn't — East London in Cape 
Colony — And a little description of a sleeping chamber 
for a lady ......... 105 


Cricket — My first match — Poor " Snivvy," in other words 
Edward McNiven — Alfred Lubbock — one Jumbo — 
Neville Lubbock and Fred Norman, point and lob 
bowler — The village grocer and six bottles of " fizz " — 
The cricket company — Old Samuel Gurney the Quaker 
— The " Butterflies " at The Mote, and an umpire^A 
bellyful of bowling at Rickling Green and H. E. Bull, 
a Harlequin, plays for the Quidnuncs and scores over 
a hundred — The Authentics at The King's Arms, 
Westerham — The Old 'Un's week — a Streatfeild eleven 
— Dear lovely Pusey — Kent cricket in olden days . 128 




Back to South Africa again — Bechuanaland — Evil times, and 
no residence of any sort — Cornwallis Harris's picture of 
the high-road to Kuruman — Red tape, plenty of it — A 
medical examination, and an old fossil says I am not 
sound. Lor ! — A little game of golf — A candid opinion 
of a good many Government officials whose only occu- 
pation at that time consisted in licking the boots of 
that great and good man, Cecil Rhodes — A description 
of a frontier officer as he should not be — Keeping up 
the dignity of Government out of the taxpayers' pocket 
— Government servants in Downing Street and abroad ! 
— Methods of justice and decency in Bechuanaland — A 
murder case of a very brutal description, murderer let 
off by the all-pervading red tape — Bechuanaland Border 
Police a disgrace to civilization, officers worse than the 
troopers — Injustice to good men in the past, Byng, 
Bartle Frere, Chinese Gordon, Butler, Archer Shee, 
James Outram, Hammersley and dozens of others — A 
little geology to finish up with — The Kuruman caves— 
A terrified land surveyor — The story of the puff-adder, 
by the kind permission of Mr. Theodore A. Cook, 
the editor of The Field. 163 


Fishing, lots of it — My Welsh tutor, his headers which were 
not headers, quite the reverse ! — The Darent — My first 
trout — The wrath of the Squire — Tarred roads and 
consequently dead trout — Squerryes — General Wolfe 
— Lullingstone — Sunset in Glendarent — Schwalbach — 
The Neckar- — A day and not a wedding-day at Gretna — 
Tickling trout — Snatching carp — Some other dastardly 
methods of catching fish — Gaffing General Sir Redvers 
Buller from the depths of the Shin — Hopes of finding 
a drowned home-ruler, but no luck — Poaching and yet 
more poaching ........ 236 


South Hampshire chalk streams, but more especially the 
Test — One John and his little ways — A drive with 
John — A sail with John — John's breeches — Punt 
gunning with John, not if I know it — God bless his 


lordship's steam launch — Memories of the past in 
South Hampshire — More Test — Poor dry-fly men 
can't catch trout unless they see them '^ sp/as/iing 
about" — General Blowhard, (i) as a fisherman, (2) as 
a puntman, (3) as a liar, but the greatest of these is 
Number 3 — Some whackers of the Test — Three lambs 
at Chilbolton . . . . . . . -271 


The Oykel — Most peculiar river I ever fished — Paved with 
salmon and grilse, but they won't take — Fish at the 
falls when river was in spate, in other days caught with 
landing-nets only and taken away in cartloads — A slice 
of luck in the Holyhead express — Fishing in South 
Africa — Handlines, rods, and other methods — Also a 
little dynamite — The Knysna — Netting at night in the 
Lora mouth — A very narrow shave from drowning — 
Keeping up the dignity of Government once again — 
Shooting an ibis from bed ! — Well ! very nearly . . 306 


Hawking — Ananias and Sapphira as falconers and church- 
goers ; also they sing hymns unmelodiously, very — Chas- 
ing a woodcock with a peregrine — Partridge-hawking 
— Rook-hawking — Rabbit-hawking with a goshawk — 
Marvellous art in the training of hawks — Good-bye 1 . 324 


To fact p. 

POACHERS IN WEST KENT . . . Frontispiece 

"S— m" . . . • • • 












Return to England after ten years' absence in South Africa — 
Gun, cricket-bat and fishing-rod come readily to hand — 
Shooting — Its social aspect — What Archie Stuart Wortley 
has to say about it — A dose for the liver in the silent 
watches of the night — Royalty expected but didn't come : 
result — Comic aspect of shooting — Aldeborontiphosco- 
phornio and his master- — Where does the fun come in for 
those who miss nineteen shots out of every twenty ? — 
Greedy shots — Now that is as it should be — Roosevelt as a 
big-game hunter — Grouse driving i, partridge driving 2, 
covert shooting 3, rough winter shooting 4, also ran, 
shooting outsides in October — Swaledale, farewell ! 

I CAN recall lines without end written by poets 
in scores, nay ! hundreds, who have from time 
immemorial animadverted on the subject of 
Home in stanzas some of which make me feel a 
better man and almost bring tears to my eyes, 
while others, such mawkish rubbish are they, 
only make me feel inclined to hunt down 
the writers with fierce hounds and incontinently 
slay them. 

sporting Recollections 

I love the verve of old Dibdin's lines — 

" At last, 'twas in the month of May, 

The crew, it being lovely weather. 
At three a.m. discovered day 

And England's chalky cliffs together. 
At seven up channel now we bore, 

While hopes and fears rushed on my fancy ; 
At twelve I gaily jumped ashore 

And to my throbbing heart pressed Nancy." 

What a rattle and go there is in the words. 
Can't you see it all before you as the ship glides 
so smoothly towards the harbour ? Can't you 
hear the order as the boat nears the jetty, " Way 
'nuff, in bow," as a prelude to Jack taking the 
fair and expectant Nancy to his arms. Compare 
the above lines to some of the pithless rubbish 
we have read about one Emma Morland, who 
would assuredly have been knocked off the quay- 
side by the stalwart Nancy ; for I can, in my 
mind's eye, see the buxom young woman as well 
able to hold her own ; nor do I imagine it would 
have taken Jack very long to have made mince- 
meat of that wretched, whining jackass, Edward 

At the end of November 1884 I was steam- 
ing up Channel in the good ship Athenian, Cape 
mail steamer, towards home after an absence of 
very nearly ten years. Now, with the utmost 
ease I could write any amount of sentimental 
bosh as to how my pulses were throbbing at the 

Of an Old 'Un 

very sight of my native land over the port bow ; 
how, so to speak, Nancy was waiting for me on 
the jetty with outstretched arms, and how in 
imagination strewn over the southern counties 
of England I could see all my female relatives 
with tears of welcome running down their 
cheeks, while my sterner ones, with voices 
betraying much emotion, were requesting a 
benign Providence to pour down blessings on 
the head of the returning traveller. I hope no 
one will venture to substitute for " traveller " 
the word " prodigal." 

As a matter of fact, not for one moment did 
any of these things cross my mind. There 
wasn't a single sentimental thought in my 
composition, I didn't ponder for an instant on 
any village bells ringing on Sunday evenings as 
I returned from church with Mary Jane, or " of 
youth and home and that sweet time when first 
I heard their soothing chime." No ! Very 
much the contrary. I had not a thought for 
any of these things, and as to my dear native 
land, the only impression that it was making on 
me as we neared its shores, and as I cowered in 
the sheltered warmth near the funnel, was that 
the breezes around it, although no doubt exceed- 
ingly exhilarating, were, to one who had been 
for so manv years in the warm and sunny regions 
of South Africa, most infernally cold. It was, 

B 2 3 

sporting Recollections 

moreover, most strongly borne in upon me, I 
remember at the time, that we, a party of four 
men, one woman and a baby, possessed but one 
greatcoat among us, and also that as I was not 
considered the most delicate of the party it did 
not fall to my lot to take possession of it. I can 
in this place hear the words of the carping critic 
calling my attention to the fact that the adjective 
" infernally " is altogether the incorrect descrip- 
tive term to apply to " cold." I beg to differ 
from him. I ask him to peruse once more the 
thirty-fourth canto of the Inferno, and I trow he 
will afterwards have but little fault to find with 
my words " infernally cold." 

In due course Southampton was reached, and 
there were endless greetings from friends and 
relatives who thronged on board when we 
reached the dock side. Among others I noticed 
a stranger, a rather smart-looking young fellow, 
who was evidently, so to speak, in our galley, 
and wondered who he could be. In due course 
we were solemnly introduced to each other, not 
altogether without chaff, and I ascertained that 
he was one of my three sons. I had left him a 
small schoolboy and returned to find him a very 
much grown up undergraduate, just about to 
take his degree. Small wonder, indeed, that I 
did not know him. 

I am afraid my chief thoughts, on being in 

Of an Old 'Un 

England and at home once more, ran rather 
on shooting, fishing and cricket than on more 
serious matters. I hope I may venture truth- 
fully to assert that during a long and somewhat 
arduous career, I have, when duty has called, 
always been found ready to stick steadily to 
work, putting sport and play wholly into the 
background. Nevertheless I am quite certain 
that never yet breathed a man, nor even a 
schoolboy, who could possibly have been keener 
for almost every description of sport and play 
than I was. With the most unmitigated joy, 
therefore, was I looking forward to taking part 
in home life in England once again, in sport and 
games and revelry of all descriptions, and indeed 
for nearly three years, until I went back to 
South Africa on service again — and for the last 
time, praise be to God — I had the most gorgeous 
time, thanks to all my dear kind friends, that it 
was possible for a very poor man to have. I 
played cricket or fished or shot almost every 
day, and found myself with either bat, rod or 
gun in hand all over England, and not infre- 
quently in both Scotland and Ireland and also in 

After so prolonged an absence from home as 
ten years I had rather dreaded that I mighd 
have dropped out of the running and been 
forgotten, and that among my friends with 


sporting Recollections 

shootings in my own beloved country of West 
Kent I should no longer be wanted. Most 
thankful, most grateful indeed, was I to find it 
was not so. I had all the shooting I could 
possibly manage. Indeed, in September 1885 
I remember I shot every day except Sundays. 
In those days we walked up partridges, to our 
shame be it said, for driving them, in West 
Kent at any rate, was, if not in its infancy, quite 
a young child, and we none of us knew much 
about really handling birds, while the ist Sep- 
tember was still a very much recognized and 
greatly honoured Saint's day and feast. I am 
well aware that in Hampshire, in the year of 
grace 1885, partridge driving was a very fairly 
developed child ; indeed I bore my part, and 
very indifferently I shot the driven birds, on 
many occasions in that county before I took my 
departure to the Cape in 1875. But in West 
Kent partridge driving, at any rate as far as I 
knew it, was decidedly ineffectual until much 

I have been found greatly to blame by many of 
my friends, that in other pages that I ventured 
to put before the public, not long ago, I refrained 
from going into much detail about shooting and 
fishing. It was certainly not from lack of 
material. In whatever land I have sojourned, 
wherever there has been game or fish to reward the 

Of an Old 'Un 

craft and energy of the hunter, I have shot and 
fished ; and even in the almost waterless wastes 
of Bechuanaland I have found pools that were 
formed from hidden depths underground that 
contained Barbers — not relatives, however, to 
him either of the razor or of Seville — a grue- 
some, loathly fish to look at, but not bad eating 
withal when small, and for these have I angled 
with bamboo, twine, and eel-hook when all other 
forms of sport have failed. Indeed from the 
quarter-deck of the old paddle steamer La Plata 
I have caught at Buenos Ayres the poison-spiked 
cat-fish, which have after the manner of their 
kind grunted as they were hauled from the depth 
of the Rio de La Plata to the immaculate decks, 
and there deposited to the abiding wrath of the 
skipper, who was no sportsman and took not 
the slightest interest in cat or other fish except 
with sauce and on a plate. If, therefore, the 
reader finds himself in these pages overbored 
with shooting and fishing details, I can only 
offer my most heartfelt apologies and regrets 
that I find it so difficult to please all sorts and 
conditions of men, but I must add that to me it 
is much easier to put before them what appears, 
at any rate, to find favour with the gentler, 
sweeter, and far more lovable sex. 

My friend poor Archie Stuart Wortley, mag- 
nificent shot and sportsman, fine artist and the 


sporting Recollections 

best of good fellows, once wrote, after certain 
advice to the shooter as to what he had better 
not do, as follows: "To some others, if they 
will forgive me, I would say, eat the buttered 
toast, swallow the tea, drink, the champagne, 
discuss the port, sample the ' old,' make love to 
the prettiest woman, tell all the best stories and 
sing the latest songs, smoke the largest regalia 
and go to bed last, in short enjoy everything, 
but don't for the love of heaven go out shooting. 
And who knows but that you may enjoy your 
week, and be as great an acquisition to your 
host and hostess as the most serious gunner of us 
all." Now I agree with the writer of these 
hnes, to the uttermost ; they are absolutely the 
feelings of my own heart, but only to a certain 
point. For when he finishes up his peroration 
with the words, " but don't for the love of 
heaven go out shooting," I turn away in dismay, 
I am overwhelmed with despair. Not shoot, 
forsooth ! And why not ? Do all these charm- 
ing things that the writer refers to so cunningly 
— we will by the same token pass by the buttered 
toast and tea — the champagne, the port, the old 
brandy, the regalia, and, "far beyond all that 
the minstrel has told," the making love to the 
prettiest woman, interfere in the slightest degree 
with a man's shooting ? Nay, verily ! rather 
the contrary. I believe they all combine to do 

Of an Old 'Un 

him good. I don't mean to say that he may 
drink a whole bottle of " fizz " and many glasses 
of port, or more than one of the " old," or smoke 
more than two or perhaps three regalias. Let 
there be decency in all things. But of this fact 
I am quite certain, that so long as the divine 
and lovely creature will suffer him, the longer 
he makes love to the prettiest woman the better 
it will be for him and the more deadly will be 
his execution on the morrow. How many times 
have I watched the men called together for a 
few days' shooting and taken note of their varied 
methods of eating, drinking, smoking and general 
conduct, in order, as they hope, to be able to 
produce their least inaccurate shooting. My 
own experience teaches me that if a man is in 
the daily — or perchance nightly is a better word 
— habit of doing himself very well, he had far 
better, if he have a few days' shooting on hand, 
continue so to do himself. If he is a really good 
shot, a sudden change of diet is only likely to 
result in disaster. If he be, however, a bad shot, 
no earthly abstention from the good things of 
this world is the least likely to make him a better 
one. I remember on a certain occasion we as- 
sembled, eight guns on the Monday evening, to 
shoot the four ensuing days in some exceedingly 
well-stocked coverts. At dinner I was the 
only one of the party who allowed himself 


Sporting Recollections 

champagne (it was '80 Pol Roger), and port 
which was '47. The others drank light claret, and 
most assuredly in no way whatever did it seem 
to assist them, for worse shooting I have seldom 
seen. As the week progressed this forced abste- 
miousness wholly vanished, and the champagne, 
the port and the old, old brandy suffered accord- 
ingly. On another occasion we were staying, 
a goodly party, in a most lordly mansion, but 
where, however, our most excellent host and 
hostess thought much more about the cuisine, 
the cellar and the commissariat department gene- 
rally than the gun-room and the artillery thereof. 
It was indeed a veritable abode of Lucullus, and 
among other trifles I remember that a cordon bleu 
and his attendants were driven away each morn- 
ing early as avant-courriers to prepare our lunch 
at a lodge in the woods, where all appliances and 
means to boot (for cooking) had been duly pro- 
vided. As the week approached its termination, 
to me entered about midnight a figure arrayed 
in the graceful folds of a dressing-gown of many 
hues, bearing in its hands a large blue bottle 
and a tumbler, and the following conversation 
ensued — 

" This is ripping stuff for the liver, old man. 
I'm going to give you a dose." 

" No ! I'll be d d if you are, not a drop," 

was my somewhat curt reply. 

Of an Old 'Un 

" What ? Are you feeling fit ? If you are, 
you are the only man in the house that is, I can 
tell you. Why, we've all got livers as big as a 
football. We've all been taking some." 

" Me fit," I answered. " Of course I'm fit, 
fit as a buck rat. Why shouldn't I be .? Just 
you listen to the words of Solomon, that's me, 
for a minute, to your vast profit. All you greedy 
beggars through the whole of this week have 
been eating unlimited quantities of the very 
richest dishes you could find to put down into 
your ungodly tummies. You haven't drunk too 
much, I grant, but you've had quite enough ; 
but as to eating, O Lord ! Why you, you 
lunatic standing there like the ghost of Noah's 
great-grandfather, with that beastly great blue 
bottle in your hand, you, as I live by bread, 
have I seen eating great fids of pate de foie gras 
three times a day, to say nothing of unlimited 
* goes ' of the very richest made-dishes, even at 
lunch. Liver as big as a football ! I should 
think so indeed ; I wonder it isn't as big as a 
bath. Avaunt ! out of it, I say, with your 

d d blue bottle." And as he departed I 

added, " Why, man, on Tuesday you and Jack 
shot like two dear little tin angels, and now, 
upon my soul I don't believe you could hit a 
church if you were put inside of it." 

I well remember one night at dinner when 
• 11 

sporting Recollections 

I was sitting next my hostess, an exceedingly 
seductive and savoury plat was handed to me and 
refused. " O, Mr. Streatfeild, you really must 
take some of that entree, you must ! It takes 
six pheasants to make the sauce alone." Never- 
theless I still resisted temptation, and indeed to 
me it was none, for I honestly prefer good cold 
roast beef to any meat you can put before me. 
Plebeian I grant, and perhaps that may be the 
reason why at the usually lamentable age of 
threescore years and ten my digestion is plebeian 
also, and that I have not sat in a dentist's chair 
since I was a lower boy at Eton. 

On one occasion at that same lordly establish- 
ment Royalty was expected for a certain shoot. 
Everything was duly arranged, the fatted calf 
was killed, and without doubt many pheasants — 
for sauce — bit the dust. The shoots were 
planned, thought over and digested with a view 
as far as was possible to put all the birds over 
Royalty's head, and the evening and the morning 
were the first day. But Royalty never turned 
up after all, and in the tents of Judah there was 
wailing and gnashing of teeth. Nevertheless 
the boss of the show took care of himself and 
was quite equal to the emergency. At every 
beat of the day he placed himself at the stand 
that had been destined for Royalty, and greatly 
distinguished himself in missing altogether, or 

Of an Old 'Un 

hitting at the wrong end, more birds, if possible, 
than he ever had so treated before. It was a 
great shoot entirely, and infinite amusement was 
derived by those who were present. Verily I 
say unto you that Royalty — God save him — on 
that occasion caused more amusement and sup- 
pressed laughter by his absence than he had ever 
done in life before by his august and beloved 

By the gracious permission of the editor of 
The Tatler I am allowed to insert a few para- 
graphs, which appeared in that charming peri- 
odical under my name, on the comic side of 
shooting, and indeed to the close observer and 
experienced sportsman the comicalities in these 
days of the consulship of Plancus are legion. 

There are no comic sides in the shootings of 
sportsmen. Please don't forget this. Neverthe- 
less in unnumbered shooting parties the comic 
element is so abundant that it is but seldom 
lacking to the acute observer. As a rule those 
who are continually supplying the comicalities 
have not the least idea that by the real sports- 
men who are present they are being quietly 
laughed at through the whole day. There are, 
for instance, a few people, most eminently respect- 
able haberdashers, tallow-chandlers, money- 
lenders, pork-butchers et id genus omne, who 
during the day, and on their own shooting, put 


01 ^■ 

sporting Recollections 

themselves in the warmest place to the best of 
their knowledge and ability at every stand. If 
these weird folk could hear the remarks that are 
made about them by all shooting men in their 
own neighbourhood, some of them at any rate 
would be astonished ; while some of them, so 
accustomed have they been to snatching and 
grabbing at the very best of everything all 
through their lives, I verily believe that even 
at their own shoots they look upon the best 
place at every beat as their inalienable right. It 
was at a partridge drive that one of these — a 
haberdasher he was — asked an old sportsman 
who was present what was the best way to 
arrange the guns. " Draw for places and go 
up one place, or two with an uneven number of 
guns if you like, after each drive," was the 
prompt reply. This was carried out. Now it 
so happened that Mr. Haberdasher was outside 
gun during the first two drives and didn't get 
a shot, while others got several. He growled 
at this in no measured terms, said he'd have no 
more of this drawing for places method, and put 
himself bang in the middle of the line at every 
drive for the remainder of the day, to the very 
great detriment of the bag. 

Well do I remember a shoot with another of 
these greedy beggars. He had lately bought 
a pair of guns and taken a shoot, and a good one 

Of an Old 'Un 

too. We guns were being scattered about by 
the head keeper, who told his master to go to a 
certain place. No ! no ! Not the place you are 
thinking of ! Now this particular shooter was 
craving, on his own shoot even, just the very 
best place and no other. This time the poor 
soul thought he had not got it, and exclaimed 
aloud to the head keeper, " Oh ! but I shall get 
no shooting there," in the hearing of us all. Ye 
gods ! Something a trifle comic about that, is 
there not ? I know a palatial establishment 
where there is a fair covert shoot maintained at 
enormous expense. In raking the guns together 
for this shoot I have noticed that the chief 
consideration is by no means the capabilities of 
the guests with their guns, nor even their social 
charm. A lord who cannot hit a house is a 
much more desirable personage than a commoner 
who can slay his thousands. The handle to a 
man's name is of infinitely greater importance 
than the manner in which he handles his gun. 
A great cause of offence to that particular palace, 
the name of which is not Midas Towers, though 
it might be, is that a neighbouring noble and 
most popular man who happens to be a peer and 
a very good shot persistently refuses all invita- 
tions, shooting or otherwise, to what he is pleased 

to call " that d d crib." One fine morning the 

guns were assembling at the hall door. " Ready 


Sporting Recollections 

for a start, my lord ? " was asked of a certain 
Lord Tomnoddy who had arrived the evening 
before. " What ? To shoot ? Me ? I never 
fired a gun in my hfe ! Am I supposed to be 
invited here to shoot ? " O Lord ! I have 
noticed that it was very seldom that any sports- 
man came twice to stay beneath the shelter of 
those particular towers. 

Usually a good host, who is at the same time 
a good sportsman, will mete out to all his guns 
places that will produce for all about the same 
amount of shooting. He will take note of what 
each gun is doing and arrange matters accord- 
ingly without favour; but, as I have said before, 
with sportsmen there is no comic side. With 
some others the thing to be considered firstly, 
secondly, thirdly and altogether is the social 
standing of the guest, and still more in these days 
the depth of his purse, no matter whether he 
can shoot or whether he can't, no matter whether 
he is safe or whether he isn't. Indeed there are 
many snobs who would gladly be peppered by 
a lord, if only he would ask them to dinner 
afterwards. One of these I have often watched 
with utter marvel handling his gun. He literally 
never hit anything. Nevertheless he was usually 
quite pleased with himself. At a hot corner 
when he was blazing away on all sides of him, I 
verily think that good man honestly believed he 

Of an Old 'Un 

had shot his full share of the birds that were 
gathered around and behind the forward guns, 
whereas in all human probability he had not 
touched a feather. A man I know exceedingly 
well, a very good shot, was one day told off by 
our host to stand next to this wretched duffer 
and shoot as far as was possible at the birds the 
duffer was likely to shoot at, and about the same 
moment that he did. The success of the scheme 
was quite wonderful, and for the remainder of 
the day and late on into the night, especially 
late on into the night, the poor duffer could talk 
of nothing else but his perfectly phenomenal 
shooting through the wonderful day. There 
was a well-known correspondent of T'lie Field in 
years gone by who signed himself " One who 
has fired 20,000 shots at a mark." If instead of 
the words " a mark " we write pheasants, and 
add, " and never hit one," it would almost apply 
to that poor man. 

One evening after a very big shoot, he was 
asked in the smoking-room how many pheasants 
he had shot during the day. " I'm not quite 
sure," he replied, " it's either ninety-six or 
ninety-seven, but we'll soon find out." Then 
he rang the bell. "Send Aldeborontiphosco- 
phornio to me," said my lord to the footman. 
Yes ! He really was a lord, somewhat newly 
constructed though, and very full of the stuff 

<= 17 

Sporting Recollections 

that in the days of the present radical Govern- 
ment Peers are made of. Then entered to us 
my lord's valet and leader. His name was not 
really Aldeborontiphoscophornio, but it ought to 
have been, for he was simply superb in his 
grandeur, surely emperor of all grenadiers, much 
about the same as one Ames in the Jubilee pro- 
cession. " How many birds did I shoot to-day ? 
Was it ninety-six or ninety-seven ? " asked his 
lordship. " Ninety-seven, my lord," replied 
Ananias, without a blush or even a twinkle of 
the eye. Then ensued a roar of laughter that 
might well have brought down the roof, while 
my lord merely remarked, " I can't see what on 
earth you silly fools are laughing at." 

I was once in the absence of the owner 
managing a covert shoot for him, quite a good 
one. He had given me instructions previously 
as to the disposal of the guns, and as to those he 
wished placed in the forefront of the battle. 
These were two, and they were to remain in 
that enviable position — it was a very different 
one from poor Uriah's battle — all day. One 
was a general and the other was the Right Hon. 
the Member for St. Blazes. These two were 
not only to have the best places all day, but, 
moreover, which was much worse, were not to 
be backed up by a gun or two behind them, as 
they did not like having their " eyes wiped." 

Of an Old 'Un 

They could neither of them shoot a little bit, 
and it was a piteous spectacle to see the birds 
all day long streaming away " unhouseled, dis- 
appointed, unaneled," untouched I mean, over 
those two old dears' heads. They easily con- 
verted what should have been a six-hundred or 
seven-hundred head day into one of considerably 
less than three hundred. Now will some one 
kindly explain to me where their fun comes in ? 
It cannot possibly be in the fact of standing and 
missing things all day long. Also they look 
miserable, and curse and swear just like any 
old long-handicapped parson of a golfer. Truly 
they tell us they never shot so badly in all 
their lives before, which is rot, and the thing 
which is not, for they always do it with the 
utmost regularity, and just as regularly " gas " 
exactly the same nonsense about it. 

I remember a very good day's partridge driv- 
ing being to a great extent ruined, or at any 
rate having its bag reduced by one-half, owing 
to two most worthy old gentlemen, both 
atrociously bad shots, being planted bang in 
the middle of the line of guns during every 
drive of the day. They fired certainly between 
them some four hundred cartridges, and as 
certainly didn't put twenty brace of birds in 
the bag. On yet another occasion I was watch- 
ing two young men at work with their guns — 
C2 19 

sporting Recollections 

they did fair Etona scant credit that day — and 
saw them fire two hundred and forty cartridges 
at one rise of easy pheasants, with a result of 
only five birds picked up. They both lost their 
heads as soon as ever the birds began coming, 
and simply blazed away anywhere, anywhere up 
in the sky, and sometimes not within twenty 
feet of the bird shot at. I have more than once 
watched a company of "Tommies" in action 
who were new to the game, letting off their 
Martinis presumably at the enemy. They were, 
however, all shooting wildly up into the sky, 
miles over the enemies' heads. These two young 
men reminded me forcibly of " recruities " at 
work. How do I know they fired two hundred 
and forty shots ? I superintended the filling of 
their bags before the rise began ! I also enjoyed 
a good laugh when I saw them and their 
attendant girls — possibly the cause of such very 
unsuccessful gunnery — engaged in carrying away 
the scores and scores of empty cartridge cases 
and depositing them in the depths of an adjacent 
ditch. Once more what I wish is, that some 
kind friend would inform me where on earth 
the fun comes in. 

One hot September day I met a man at a 
partridge shoot. He was an American million- 
aire, but had never shot before. He had a pair 
of new guns, new cartridge bags, new clothes, 

Of an Old 'Un 

new gaiters, new boots, and last but not least, 
from his point of view at any rate, I should 
think, a pair of most awfully sore feet. I 
believe the only thing he killed, or even thought 
he killed, during that long September day was a 
partridge that some one else had fired at too. 
No ! he didn't bag a man, which it appeared to 
me was bordering on the miraculous. In a 
certain field of standing barley that we walked 
in line were a great many young pheasants 
which kept rising in front of us all the way 
down the field. He steadily blazed away at 
them, and no one said him nay, for we none of 
us, our dear old host least of all, wished to put 
an end to his most innocent and bloodless 
recreation. He never made one single bird 
shed a feather. 

It is very wonderful to me how " fearfully " 
keen, I use the word " fearfully " advisedly, some 
of these rank duffers are. It seems to me that 
the more unsuccessfully they shoot, so much the 
more anxious are they to let their guns off. 
They hate sparing hens, indeed it is only with 
very great difficulty that some of these middle- 
aged shooters who started their shooting career 
late in life can be persuaded to spare anything, 
even a " stop." As to letting a bird go because 
it isn't theirs, they never dream of such a thing 
for a moment. If they happen to be " back 


sporting Recollections 

with the beaters," which by the same token is 
a thing they don't at all admire, they march 
along and come right up to the forward guns 
and then blaze away freely at the forward flying 
birds, which they have no right even to look at. 
Many a time have I watched these gentlemen 
hastening on round a corner and planking them- 
selves between the covert and the forward guns, 
and then doing their best — luckily their feeble 
best — to prig all their neighbours' birds. I 
must allow, however, that these dreadful things 
are usually confined to commercial circles only. 
Real country gentlemen, real sportsmen, would 
sooner perish than be guilty of such selfish 
atrocities. Sometimes it is just over-keenness 
leads them astray. They put themselves back, 
honestly meaning to stay there, but when birds 
begin to rise to the forward guns they cannot 
resist the temptation to get away on, and get a 
look in ; they positively cannot help themselves. 
These to some extent have my sympathy. They 
would not do it if they could help it. They 
are quite different from the downright greedy 
pigs who mean, coute que couie, to snaffle the 
best of everything, and to shoot at every bird 
that is within reach, as well as a great many 
that are not. 

Not long ago a very good shoot was on hand 
near the home of one of these same greedy pigs, 

Of an Old 'Un 

but he had not been bidden to the feast, The 
G. P., an enormously wealthy, and in his own 
eyes at any rate an exceedingly important, 
person, could not believe it, he felt certain there 
must be a mistake somewhere, so he actually, 
incredible as it may seem, sent his head keeper 
to interview the other man's head keeper to try 
and ascertain the true state of the case. The 
fact, as I well knew, was that the G. P., by 
shooting other men's birds and by his incessant 
firing of low and dangerous shots, had worn out 
his welcome and could be tolerated no more. 

Since the tremendous keenness of youth has 
worn off I have cared infinitely more for the 
cheeriness, good temper and unselfishness of my 
shooting companions than for the amount of the 
bag. It is far greater pleasure to me to shoot 
a few score head of game in the company of 
good sportsmen and cheery companions than to 
kill hundreds when my mates are greedy shots 
and, as is too often the case, wholly lacking in 
all knowledge of woodcraft. One really greedy 
shot in a team of six guns will very possibly ruin 
the pleasure of the day for the other five. It is 
impossible to get away from him. Wheresoever 
the carcase is there will the vultures be gathered 
together. In other words, wherever birds are 
thickest there or thereabouts will your greedy 
shot, by hook or by crook, manage to butt in. 


Sporting Recollections 

He is without shame, and no rebuff seems to 
penetrate his pachydermatous hide. 

I need scarcely observe that the systematically 
greedy shot that we, alas ! so frequently meet in 
almost every county, and more especially in 
regions not remote from the City, almost always 
has good shooting of his own. It must be so, 
for if he had nothing to offer in return for the 
shooting he has with his neighbours he would 
cease to exist. Indeed, as it is he growls and 
grumbles a good deal that he is so frequently 
left out in the cold. It is, I fancy, very seldom 
indeed that you will see a poor man a greedy 
shot. He is probably asked to shoot because he 
handles his gun like a sportsman and gentleman, 
and never takes a bird that isn't his own except 
by mistake. In good company how frequently 
does one see a bird go away unshot, followed by 
the remark made by the two sportsmen over 
whom it sailed, to each other, " I'm awfully 
sorry, I thought it was yours." Now that is as 
it should be. How different it is with a couple 
of these others who have crawled in to as near 
the covert as they dare, and let off" their four 
ineffectual barrels to try and grab the bird from 
their neighbours before even the poor beast of a 
bird has got decently into the air. 

I must allow I do know a very greedy man or 
two who, although far from being blessed with 

Of an Old 'Un 

this world's goods, get a great deal of shooting. 
But they are most excellent shots, and at the 
same time are most careful never by any chance 
to bag a bird that belonged to a host with whom 
they were in the habit of shooting. Verily I 
have watched this division times without 
number, and have laughed to see them sparing 
bird after bird that was on its way to the Squire, 
Lord Broadacres, or Moses Goldenberg, well 
knowing that the next beat, when I myself 
happened to be one of the forward guns, they 
would come creeping along from their place 
with the beaters and down every bird in my 
face. These people have some very pretty nick- 
names among sportsmen, real sportsmen, but these, 
and they are not altogether bereft of embroidery, 
are not customarily made use of to their faces. 

What little big-game shooting I have had has 
been of an entirely negligible quantity, and has 
usually come in my daily avocations. Some of 
it was pleasant, but a great deal of it bored 
me to extinction. I am quite sure I was never 
intended for a big-game hunter. Buffalo I have 
indeed shot, and I have lived within easy reach 
of elephant, and for years had hippos almost at 
my doors, but I never interfered with either, nor 
had the smallest inclination to take their lives. 
Even when I have shot some of the most 
splendid antelopes, such as koodoo, gemsbok and 


sporting Recollections 

hartebeest, I honestly think it has caused me 
more regret than pleasure, and of late years I 
have refused point-blank to go out and shoot a 
stag. I well remember one day not long ago 
being asked if I would go out to the hill and 
shoot a stag, or go out sea-fishing with the 
ladies. I chose the latter, and had an exceed- 
ingly happy day, and baited hooks without 
number, and made the lives of many fishes both 
great and small exceedingly uncomfortable. 

There have been books without end written 
as to big-game hunting, chief among which that 
I greatly delight to honour are those by Selous 
and Cornwallis Harris. A book of very much 
more recent date by that great self-advertiser, 
Theodore Roosevelt, I look upon with the 
utmost contempt. His was a big-game expedi- 
tion indeed. Compare the manner in which 
that expedition was instituted and carried through 
with all its appliances, its doctors, its photo- 
graphers to take the important and all-conquering 
Teddy standing in triumph in all his glory on 
the top of every poor beast that he slew, to say 
nothing of the pseans of praise that appeared 
from time to time in the daily press as to the 
exploits of the advancing hero. Compare the 
Roosevelt expedition with the work accomplished 
so modestly and quietly by Harris and Selous ; 
think of what those two men went through and 

Of an Old 'Un 

of their unaided victories over the fiercest wild 
beasts and perils unnumbered. Then ponder on 
the other with all its gorgeous set-out, its 
shikarees, its trackers, its printers, its photo- 
graphers, its parsons and its band. I misre- 
member — in the language of that expedition — the 
parsons and the band, but I allow they were 
there all the same. Well may we exclaim, 
" Look here upon this picture and on this." 

To my mind the most absolutely charming 
shooting in the world is in the United Kingdom, 
and the pick of the basket is grouse driving 
first, partridge driving second, covert shooting 
third, and rough winter shooting fourth. Of 
course there are other most fascinating methods 
of securing feathered game, but the methods I 
have mentioned appear to me to possess an 
entourage which lends them a greater charm and 
more alluring details than are met with where 
fewer guns are required. What can be more 
delightful than to take one's part in some lovely 
home among a cheery, well-arranged party for 
grouse driving, either in the Highlands of Scot- 
land or perchance in the wild dales of Yorkshire. 
Can aught be pleasanter ? Do not forget that 
apart from the sport itself there are many other 
things that go far to enhance or mar the exceed- 
ing charm of a well-arranged house-party for 
grouse driving. Think of the stroll in the 


Sporting Recollections 

gloaming with the fair creature who has been 
gracing your butt, lucky beggar that you are, 
through the day, saying, let us hope, many 
soothing things to you anent the unerring pre- 
cision of your deadly barrels. Perchance there 
has been a spate and the river is in perfect order, 
and before dinner you feel sure you can lead her 
to where she will be certain to meet that fifteen- 
pounder that came short to you a few evenings 
ago. Out goes her bonny Durham Ranger, and 
comes sweeping across the stream ; another cast 
a yard lower down, there is a boil in the water, 
and she has him. Then comes the fun ! Isn't 
it fun for you, too, my friend, to watch the 
glowing cheeks and dancing eyes, as she deftly 
handles her rod, skips from rock to rock, like 
any chamois, after her fish, and in due course 
guides the bonny silvery fellow to your feet ? 
And as you gafF, kill and lay him glistening on 
the bank, are her thanks not something worth 
having ? Isn't that witching smile something 
w^orth running about after ? Go to ! If these 
don't make something under your Norfolk jacket 
tingle, you are no good to me. You can't hit 
driven grouse, or cast a fly within ten feet of 
where you wish, and had better resign yourself to 
a bath-chair and a dressing-gown until the finish. 
How well do I remember a certain morning 
in October, years ago, when I found myself in a 

Of an Old 'Un 

butt in the north-west corner of Yorkshire. It 
was a Monday. At sundown, on the previous 
Saturday, we had finished the last partridge drive 
of the day in the middle of that most excellent 
partridge country around Docking, in the north 
of Norfolk. I at once proceeded to thresh my 
way through Lynn, Peterboro', Darlington and 
other places to Richmond, where I found a dog- 
cart waiting for me, and had a most delightful 
twenty-mile drive through the heart of lovely 
Swaledale to find myself gun in hand, fit and 
unwearied, just as the grouse were beginning to 
come along. It was what we were pleased to 
call " the poor relations' shoot," for it was the 
third time over the moors ; nevertheless, we 
made up over a hundred brace a day. Yes ! 
and they were birds, too, and took some pulling 
down. Picture to yourself a beautiful mid- 
October morning on those grand moors, rolling 
away to the far horizon and beyond where the 
eye could reach. 

The roar of the water rushing over Kisden 
Force in the distance falls soothingly on the ear, 
the lovely little lady — who has become since 
that day the wife of one of my best friends — 
who had been good enough to wait for me on 
the road to show me the way to my butt, is 
gracious and smiling, and wears a most becoming 
but suitable hat and short skirt — wise little 


Sporting Recollections 

woman — and all is well. A couple of miles off, 
for a moment against the sky I can just make 
out the line of drivers, who disappear as they 
sink the hill, but as we well know are coming 
on steadily towards us. Soon here and there 
black dots appear for a moment and disappear 
again, and we are aware that the birds are 
coming on. " Ah ! would you, you brute," we 
exclaim as an old cock grouse, who has come 
silently skimming along low over the heather, 
very nearly catches us napping, but not quite ; 
for he is shot behind us, and not in front as he 
ought to have been, and tumbles headlong into 
the heather, first blood of the day. Soon birds 
begin coming all along the line, and the firing is 
general. Look ! look at that enormous pack of 
birds going away to our right, surely they will 
get away off the drive unscathed. No ! Up 
comes a flag out of the heather in front of them, 
and they turn away. Up comes another, and 
yet another. Good ! good indeed ! Well done, 
flankers ! Nobly have you saved that enormous 
pack, which are now heading straight for the 
butts. Now, guns, do your duty and load like 
lightning, for at " the poor relations' shoot " we 
are not allowed two guns. Good men ! they 
know their work, and let the leading birds 
through the line unshot at, to show the rest 
of the mob the road to glory or the grave. 

Of an Old 'Un 

Soon after the first drive, I was left-hand gun of 
the line, and behind me was an almost sheer fall 
of some hundreds of feet down to the river 
Swale, which flowed along far below us. 

" Anything to pick up ? " I was asked at the 
end of the drive. 

" Yes ; seven, but deuce knows where, for 
they all fell over the brae and are gone to blazes. 
We shall never find 'em at the bottom of that 
infernal precipice." 

" All right, old man. Keep your hair on. It's 
a put-up job. We thought we'd score off you. 
There's a man waiting down below who has 
been keeping watch for your birds as they came 
tumbling over, and probably they are all gathered 
by now. They usually am't much of runners by 
the time they get to the bottom of what you 
are pleased to call ' that infernal precipice.' " 

So and thus that week too passed away. 
More sporting, more glorious shooting I never 
took delight in, and that is saying a very great 
deal, for I don't think there breathes a man 
who has been a truer lover of good sporting 
shooting than I have, and indeed, thank God, 
I am so still, in spite of much white hair and 
many increasing infirmities. Dear Swaledale, 
with your unending beauty, fair heights of 
Kisden, and Gunnerside, farewell! I fear I 
shall never see you again. 



Easy grouse driving at Pitfour — Partridge driving — A good 
day's walk over a shot-out beat — Two invitations for 
partridge driving — Lunch at one of 'em — Driving in West 
Kent — Typical day at the end of the season — " Come 
out, you little beggar, and join in the sport " — Walking 
up partridges — A good but solitary day in the Holmesdale 
Valley — Count de Baillet and some '84 Ayala. 

The easiest grouse driving I ever came across 
was at Pitfour in Aberdeenshire. It is a very 
flat moor, not big, and very comfortably handled. 
The birds come straight and easily, and unless 
in a high wind one ought seldom to miss a 
shot. A man once went to stay at Pitfour, and 
the day after his arrival a grouse drive was 
toward. He confessed at dinner that it would 
be his first day at driven grouse. He was 
considerably chaffed during the evening as to 
what a ghastly mess he'd make of it, how he'd 
lose his head and shoot miles behind everything, 
and indeed be a very unhappy person in several 
different ways. It was a nice still morning. 
His butt was in the middle of the line, and all 
was as it should be. At the end of the drive 
his host and another came to him and this 
conversation ensued — 

sporting Recollections 

" Well, how did you get on ? You had some 
shooting I saw." 

" Pretty well, thanks ! Yes ! I had nineteen 

" How many did you kill ? " 
" Well ! nineteen ! " 

" What a d d liar you must be then. 

You said at dinner last night you'd never shot 
a driven grouse in your life." 

"Yes, that was true. I never have shot a 
driven grouse until this morning, but I have 
shot tens of thousands of driven partridges, 
which are infinitely more difficult than any of 
the ' sitters ' I have killed just now." 

I think I have helped to make bags of driven 
partridges under every conceivable circumstance 
and in many most favourable localities. Norfolk, 
Suffolk, Essex, Kent, Hampshire and occasionally 
other counties have all helped to make my 
education as little incomplete as possible. But 
this fact I am quite sure of, and am prepared 
to assert it on my sacred word of honour. It 
is that the longer we live and the longer we 
study not only the world of sport but also the 
habits, manners and peculiarities of the animals, 
the birds, the fishes, the butterflies and the innu- 
merable other living creatures in which we take 
interest, the greater will our own lack of observ- 
ation and stupendous ignorance be impressed 


Sporting Recollections 

upon us. Our diagnosis of circumstances, our 
suggested remedies for manoeuvres gone awry, 
will so frequently prove wrong and futile, that 
at length — I grant it takes some time — we 
are persuaded, nay, rather, we are forced into 
the belief that we know very little indeed, 
and that when our old friend Robbie Burns 
made use of those oft-quoted words anent men 
and mice, he know uncommonly well what he 
was talking about. Southey, too, was very wise 
when he made one of his characters remark that 
" My age just knows enough to understand 
how little all its knowledge." I once heard the 
remark as to a whist-player, " Poor devil ! he 
doesn't even know enough to see that he knows 

When a man becomes aware that in matters 
that appertain to sport and to bird and animal 
life he has learnt perchance but one-thousandth 
part of what there is to know, he is on the high- 
road to a glimmering of knowledge. In the 
alphabet that comprises the twenty-four letters 
from A to Z he has, let us hope, learnt A, and 
that is a good deal. There are thousands and 
thousands of men who fancy they know all there 
is to be known as to shooting and sport, who 
have never even come to the knowledge that 
the letter A exists, or that there is an alphabet 
at all. 

Of an Old 'Un 

A man I once knew well, and with whom I 
shot a great deal — he has long been dead, poor 
fellow — assured me, in an expansive moment 
after dinner, that he knew there was only one 
man in the world who was as well acquainted 
with the art of partridge driving as he was, and 
that man was the late Lord Leicester of Holk- 
ham. Now this, for the possessor of it, was an 
exceedingly gorgeous belief. I never knew this 
man shoot away from his home, where every- 
thing was of course managed according to his 
own wild will, and wild indeed it was on occa- 
sions. He knew almost nothing about the art 
of partridge driving. If we got fifty brace of 
birds when we had seen enough to get three 
times the number, he was quite contented, and 
never for one moment became aware that through 
his execrable management streams of birds had 
gone away unshot at, and were lost for the day. 
Although he had an enormous partridge shoot, 
and only about half shot it, he didn't much like 
any shooting being done unless — as Paddy would 
say — his honour was in it. When we were 
allowed to go forth without him, we generally 
found that the head keeper, much against his 
own will, had received orders which made us 
feel that v^^e were, as the immortal bard puts it, 
" cabined, cribbed, confined," and, moreover, we 
were never allowed to continue shooting after 

D 2 35 


orting Recollections 

the birds had come on to the stubbles to feed. 

A d d silly idea in my opinion, and one, I 

fancy, I have never come across elsewhere. 

Once, and only once, I got a free run and was 
allowed out, on the promise to be back in the 
house by four o'clock. It was a Saturday and 
nothing was doing. I asked our host after 
breakfast if his eldest son, who was then eighteen, 
and I might go out for a shoot. I got per- 
mission to shoot over a certain farm that had 
already been pretty well worried, as it was near 
headquarters. As we took our departure, our 
host again rubbed in about the four o'clock rule, 
and added, " You'll be pretty clever if you get 
twenty brace." I smiled a grim smile in my 
sleeve, and thought to myself, if I can't get 
more than double twenty I'll eat my hat. There 
were, as I well knew, swarms of birds, but they 
were very wild. The cover, chiefly good roots, 
was well situated. We had three or four good 
active young keepers with us who were as keen 
as mustard. I explained my plan of campaign, 
which was to drive the birds from root field to 
root field, running as hard as we could lick, get 
them tired and frightened, and have a drive or 
two to get them scattered a bit, and then walk 
them up decently and in order, and dust their 
jackets for them to rights. We drove swarms 
of birds in front of us, at first scarcely getting a 

Of an Old 'Un 

shot, then ran hard round them and got them 
back again, and there was very soon a change in 
the spirit of their dream, and the bag began to 
swell visibly. Then came a fairly productive 
drive or two. It's not easy to put birds to only 
two guns, but it helped the nefarious mana^uvres, 
and when we reached home, as the stable clock 
struck four, our host met us at the door. 

" Well ! Got your twenty brace ?" 

" Rather, and more too ! " 

" Not thirty then .? " 

" Rather ! Lots more, lots ! Jump ever so 
much higher." 

" Confound it ! You haven't got fifty ? " 

Here his face became as long as my arm and 
he looked exceedingly glum. 

To cut a long story short, when our bag was 
laid out all nice and pretty and comfy on the 
grass in front of the hall door, it totalled sixty- 
nine brace and a half, although you may not 
believe it. (Stranger, do you think I'd imperil 
my immortal soul for the sake of one canvas-back 
duck ?) But as our host very solemnly sought 
the interior of the house we heard him mutter, 

" D d poachers ! never again, by Jove ! never 

again ! " and we never did. Not a dog's chance ! 
But I tell you the game was anyhow worth the 
candle that particular journey. 

Partridge driving ? Yes ! And there are very 


Sporting Recollections 

many different descriptions of that same. Just 
put these two invitations side by side and see 
which you fancy. " Dear John, " runs the first, 
" we are going to have a partridge drive or two 
on the loth and iith October. I hope you'll 
be able to come along. You'd better be at the 
house at 9.30, for I can't tell what our plan of 
campaign will be till I see what the wind is like." 
And here is the second : " Dear Mr. Smith, we 
hope you will be able to join us for some part- 
ridge driving on the 8th and 9th of October. 
We meet at ten o'clock at the house, and shall 
go to the windmill on the top of the Hangman's 
Hill to begin." 

You accept both invitations. What is the 
result .'' When you arrive at the house in re- 
sponse to the first, you at once enter a big car 
that is waiting at the door and drive off to the 
up-wind boundary of your host's shooting. 
There you find your loaders waiting, and with 
the words " Very pussy, please," the boss at once 
leads you all off to stand No. i. You have al- 
ready drawn for places while in the car, and 
know where to go, and not a word louder than a 
whisper is spoken. Let me here call attention 
to the fact that on t/iis shoot you will never see 
a soul sitting under the hedge in front of the 
guns, and you may generally observe that when 
partridge driving is the order of the day, our 

Of an Old 'Un 

host prefers that skirts, even the shortest and 
most graceful, shall be conspicuous by their 
absence, for well he knows that Jim's barrels will 
be discharged with much less than their accus- 
tomed accuracy when Mabel's eyes are bent on 
him, and that nothing on the face of the earth 
can keep Billy's sister's tongue quiet even when 
the best drive of the day is in progress, and 
silence is indeed even more golden than usual. 
On this shoot all is ordered well and there is no 
discussion between the boss and his head keeper. 
Everything was settled between them hours ago, 
and both know their work without a thoujrht. 
Unless there come a severe change of wind they 
both know beforehand where every drive of the 
day will be, and while our host sees to his guns 
the head keeper takes care of his drivers, and 
most excellently well he does it, as the bag at 
the end of the day amply testifies. 

Now turn we to shoot No. 2, a very different 
but far from uncommon affair. When we arrive 
at the house we are taken into the hall of the 
palatial establishment and are introduced to two 
or three of the guns. What strikes us, I might 
almost say strikes us blind, most strongly about 
these is the variety and alarming brilliance of 
their neckties and waistcoats. It is exceedingly 
plain that not one of these be-necktied and be- 
waistcoated ones was ever intended for a mighty 


sporting Recollections 

hunter before the Lord. We dawdle about and 
are offered drinks which are generally accepted 
and consumed, and at last we are driven away to 
the windmill on Hangman's Hill. When we 
arrive there we find a drove of keepers in 
gorgeous array and coloured collars, and the 
head keeper indeed with gilt buttons. O Lord ! 
Then, it being already eleven o'clock in the day, 
our host proceeds to have a long interview with 
this head keeper as to the first drive. They 
neither of them, I may observe, know more 
about driving partridges than partridges know 
about driving them. We are at the most 
northerly point of our host's shoot, and not 
unnaturally, the rendezvous having been settled 
on a fortnight ago, there is a gale from the 
south. " Never mind, we must try it," we hear 
our host observe as he leaves his keeper and 
returns to us. We are all taken off up wind 
half a mile or more and posted behind a most 
excellent hedge — excellent, that is, if only the 
wind had been in exactly the opposite direction 
— and from this exalted point of observation we 
shortly begin to see partridges streaming away 
to the right and left of the drivers and dis- 
appearing far away behind them in the distance, 
lost to us for the day. Result of the first drive, 
nil ! And so on all through the remainder of 
that weary day. We fought the wind manfully 

Of an Old 'Un 

the whole time and were routed utterly, horse, 
foot, artillery, army service corps, hospital, and 
boy scouts. I think our demnition total was 
seven brace, and upon my soul I wonder we got 
even so many as that. Had we begun at the 
other end of the shoot, with even moderate 
shooting and management we might have bagged 
quite eighty to a hundred brace. But (big 
" but," please, Mr. Printer) I apologize most 
humbly to our worthy host for forgetting per- 
chance by far the most important part of the 
entertainment. We did indeed have a lunch 
that was most excellent — nay more, perfectly 
gorgeous in its immensity and grandeur, and — 
under the circumstances an uncommonly lucky 
thing — took at least two hours over it. It was 
better sport than standing in a beastly cold wind 
and getting scarcely one shot in two hours. 
Yea verily ! there are indeed many and varied 
descriptions of partridge driving. 

A propos of shooting luncheons, a lady of my 
acquaintance once asked if I could tell her of 
a good luncheon dish for shooting parties. I 
replied. Yes! I could, a dish one didn't often see 
— sausages and mashed potatoes. She sniffed, 
and with her nose in the air, assured me that 
nothing would induce her to allow such a 
plebeian thing to be put on her table. Now in 
reality that good woman was a very common 


Sporting Recollections 

person indeed — the ill-mannered daughter of a 
small Nonconformist parson who had married a 
snob with sacksful of shekels. She carried more 
airs and graces than even Lady Midas herself, 
or a Gaiety girl who had married a marquis. 
Sausages and mashed potatoes indeed ! But I 
recovered from my rebuff, and bethought me of 
the day when 'Arriet told me " I worn't no 
gentleman," because I prevented the inebriate 
'Arry from " 'itting 'er over the 'ed with 'is 

I think the most interesting partridge driving 
in which I have borne my part has been in the 
well-wooded regions of West Kent. The bags 
indeed have not been phenomenal, although it 
has very often been my good fortune to assist in 
the making of bags of fifty to a hundred brace. 
But the shooting is exceedingly varied, and in 
many places so difficult, that not infrequently 
every bird killed is a victory. Imagine yourself 
standing on a late October morning behind a 
hedge in which are oak trees but short distances 
apart on which the foliage, mottled brown and 
dying, will soon be fluttering to its grave in the 
autumn breeze. Hark ! A whistle and whirr of 
wings, and the shrieking birds are upon you 
under the boughs of the oak. They whirl away 
right and left, and if, as they twist off from you 
and sail away down the breeze with the mottled 

Of an Old 'Un 

oaks for the background, you can knock out 
your brace with any degree of regularity, then 
indeed are you worthy to have M.G. (Master of 
the Gun) annexed to your patronymic. 

I have very often thought, and indeed said, 
that a man who can with regularity kill driven 
partridges in an excessively wooded country can 
kill anything. Indeed I have not infrequently 
noticed men whom I have seen shoot driven 
partridges in Norfolk and Suffolk, when coming 
over a treeless hedge twenty feet high in streams, 
and all flying at exactly the same height and 
pace, with the utmost regularity and precision, 
and scarcely missing a bird, fail sadly in their 
efforts to make good work at our birds in West 
Kent as they twisted and twirled among the 
brown oak trees. 

In this part of the world we often enjoy what 
to me is a most exceptionally delightful form of 
sport towards the end of the season in pursuit of 
cock pheasants and partridges. If, as is frequently 
the case, the coverts and shaws, as they are called 
in our part of the world, are not large they are 
always taken in one beat. What can be more 
delightful than to find oneself on a bright winter 
day with the sun behind one at the end of a 
thirty-acre covert, with a pal who knows his 
work on each side.? Hark! There is the whistle 
to start the beaters, and we are instantly on the 


sporting Recollections 

alert. Soon there is a rustle on the dry leaves in 
front of us, and we see a poor hare poke her head 
through the end of the wood and look about her. 
We are right in front of her and the blind beetle 
doesn't see us, and makes a dash across the open. 
Poor beast ! Let her go ! We turn our head the 
other way and pretend not to see her, for we 
have been told to " shoot hares, please, there are 
too many left." I hate shooting hares ! But 
that is another story. " Woodcock forward ! 
Woodcock forward ! " comes ringing to us 
down the covert. Here he comes straight to 
the gun on our right. But at the very moment 
the trigger is pulled the cock twigs him and 
swerves off like lightning, leaving an ounce of 
shot two feet behind his tail. No good, my 
friend ! Your time has come and you are bang 
in the middle of the second shot from those 
deadly barrels and lie prone on the grass. Then 
come some partridges that have been running 
on in front of the beaters, and get up in twos 
and threes and suffer accordingly. Then a 
whole covey comes on, some among the trees, 
some over them, giving shots that when we kill 
them clean make us feel like the dwellers on 
Olympus. Last of all are the old cock pheasants 
that we have seen dodging about in front of us 
and trying to hide in brambles and stubs and 
getting into the ditch outside in the hope of 

Of an Old 'Un 

dodging back, past the beaters. A few fly back 
and make decent shots for the back guns, while 
the rest are driven forward to us and come into 
the bag, for they do not require a conjurer. But 
they must be killed, and at this time of year our 
object is to kill many superfluous cocks and not 
to pull down high rocketers from the heavens. 

Last scene of all ! " Come out, you little 
beggar, and join in the sport," says a beater, as 
he pokes out a wretched little bunny, who had 
hidden in an ash stub. And out the poor little 
beggar comes and scoots away across the open 
to his doom. " I saw that in Punch^' says the 
reader. Very likely he did. I believe it was 
published in that periodical. Nevertheless that 
yarn is my very own private property and hap- 
pened under my own nose, and indeed it was 
I who shot the " poor little beggar " at a shoot 
I was managing some years ago at a place 
called Combe Bank in Kent, which at the time 
belonged to a very great friend of mine, who not 
uncommonly goes by the name of " The Pieman." 

I have thought since that the slaying of that 
unfortunate rabbit was a far from ladylike action 
on my part. The " little beggar " had already 
been greeted with a most unparliamentary epithet 
from the beater, and should surely have been 
allowed to scuttle off free without further 
molestation either lingual or lethal. Sorry ! 


^^""^ % 

J? ?^~^' ^' o 


Sporting Recollections 

Far be it from me to say unkind things or 
even to think them of one for whom in the past 
I have felt such true affection in my breast, viz. 
the sport of walking up partridges. I could 
almost find it in my heart to sigh over the 
hundreds — I might almost say thousands — of 
delightful days in the past, when with cheery 
companions I have walked the stubbles, the 
turnips, the clover and the " short cut " in half 
the counties of England, to say nothing of many 
in Scotland, in pursuit of those dear little brown 
birds, and found delight and good sport therein. 
Where are those cheery companions now ? Alas ! 
almost all lying quiet and peaceful beneath the 
sod in God's acre, scattered far and wide over 
the world, while ocean's depths hide a few 
brave spirits from our mortal gaze until the sea 
shall give up her dead. 

Thirty or forty years ago, whenever I was in 
England, it was a rare thing to miss shooting 
for more than a day or two during the whole of 
the month of September. Times are changed 
indeed. Were I now-a-days to receive an invi- 
tation to shoot partridges by any method other 
than driving, I should be just as much surprised 
as would be the case were I bidden to sit with 
a friend in the gloaming in the dyke back and 
shoot sitting grouse as they picked up their 
evening meal from the stooks. What a charm 

Of an Old 'Un 

there was about it all nevertheless, what endless 
enjoyment ; and while I look back on the days 
when as a boy I went forth with my gun, day 
after day, on the very limited little manor over 
which I was allowed to roam in the hope of 
hunting down and securing a brace or two of 
partridges, I am quite certain that such methods 
were very much more likely to implant in the 
youthful breast a desire for true sport, for know- 
ledge of woodcraft and for close observation of 
the ways of all living things, than is the educa- 
tion of the young of the human species of the 
present day. I gravely fear the chief, almost 
the only, desire of most young sportsmen of 
these times is a big bag and lots of shooting. 
Tell me how many out of ten sportsmen of 
rather immature age could tell you, at a glance, 
at the end of an October day's partridge driving, 
which were young birds and which were old, 
which were cocks and which were hens. 

The last time that I remember seriously walk- 
ing up partridges was in Aberdeenshire about a 
quarter of a century ago and during the month 
of November. There were heaps of birds and 
they were anything but wild. Near the coast 
not far from Peterhead we first of all drove the 
birds from the arable land down to the bents 
fringing the North Sea ; then formed our line 
and walked along parallel with the coast. The 


Sporting Recollections 

bents were fairly thick, and also prickly I have 
noticed, and the ground was exceedingly uneven, 
and it was no uncommon thing as one topped 
a rise to come right on the top of a covey. 
There were, moreover, many most sporting 
driving shots at birds that had risen far away 
along the line and were speeding back to their 
home ground. Rabbits too at almost every step 
were dashing back to their holes through the 
bents like lightning, giving most excellent sport 
and at the same time providing most satisfactory 
lessons in very rapid shooting. It was indeed 
pretty work and real sport. Filling a heavy 
crop of almost knee-high turnips in a fifty-acre 
Norfolk or Hampshire field with partridges, 
and then half-mooning it with seven or eight 
guns and a drove of beaters, is, I am afraid, a 
class of sport which but little appeals to me. 
True, the guns on the flank do get a few pretty 
driving shots, which to them are pleasant no 
doubt, but to be in the middle of the line and 
when birds rise near you, and you have to shoot 
straight at their rumps and then see them fall 
amidst half a bushel of feathers, makes me feel 
rather as if I had been shooting at my elderly 
female relations when they weren't looking. I 
know I have heard the word " plugging " applied 
to this class of shooting. I fancy there was yet 
another word which has been joined neatly on 

Of an Old 'Un 

to the "plugging," but I forget what it was. 
Well, well ! there are some few things that are 
best forgotten. 

Yes, indeed ! I can well remember days 
without number when I was young, and all was 
couleur de rose, when I was more than contented 
with the sport of walking up partridges. Con- 
tented, do I say .'' did I not verily deem it sport 
for kings, nor dream that anything in the way 
of sporting could be more utterly delightful. 
The year 1859 was one of the very best years 
for partridges I can remember, for on the first 
of September, in a bad country for them and on 
a farm of only two hundred acres, one of my 
brothers and I got not far short of twenty brace. 
The next year, i860, was a perfectly disastrous 
season. It rained the whole summer through, 
and as from May to August I was playing 
cricket nearly every day, only too painfully well 
can I recall how mournfully we sat day after 
day in dripping marquees, for pavilions were as 
yet almost unknown, and watched the puddles 
around the wicket gradually assuming the pro- 
portions of miniature lakes. That September I 
shot but one day. It was on a very pretty little 
shoot called Henden, and on that ground where 
the year before three of us had shot over thirty 
brace one day early in the month the same three 
managed to secure exactly three old birds, and 

E 49 

Sporting Recollections 

indeed not one single young bird did we see. 
I was once walking up partridges under that 
mighty old chalk pit well-known to fame on 
Westerham Hill, scene of endless hill-climbing 
competitions, and I might truly add of disastrous 
and fatal accidents. In the days I am writing 
of there were no motors, indeed I don't think 
there were even boneshakers. There was no 
tarring of roads, and the poor trout in the lovely 
little Darent that had its birthplace under yonder 
lordly beeches in Squerryes Park there below us 
and rippled away untainted to "join the brim- 
ming river," Father Thames, were as yet not 
seen gasping on the surface, moribund, for lack 
of their wonted clear stream, or dead on the 
edge of it, asphyxiated by the filthy, defiling 
muck that had been thrust upon them. Darell- 
Brown, to whom I bow, and one Tom Patterson 
and I were the party. Tom was middle. He 
was a good shot and usually a fair and generous 
one. But that day something had gone wrong 
with the works, his stockings were wrong side 
out, or stale cucumber was doubling him up, or 
he was in love perchance. Anyhow there was 
something entirely wrong with him, for he was 
shooting in disgraceful style, neglecting his own 
birds and letting drive at those which were not 
his, right across us both, and this was making 
a considerable difference to our bag. We two 

Of an Old 'Un 

outside guns had a little quiet conversation, at 
the end of a field, which Tom did not take part 
in, and we proceeded to a field of clover, into 
which we had scattered quite a nice lot of birds. 
Very soon two rose at Tom's feet, and while 
Darell-Brown gave his attention to one 1 looked 
after the other, and they both fell dead not ten 
yards in front of Tom's nose. He looked round 
at us but said nothing. As far as was possible 
in that clover field we took every bird away 
from him. He had something to say about it 
when we had finished out the field, and we let 
him have his say. Then we explained matters 
and impressed upon him that if he went on 
bagging, or trying to bag, our birds he'd get the 
worst of it, for we were two to one. He saw 
the error of his ways, and expressed his sorrow. 
There was much peace, and for the remainder 
of the day he never looked at a bird that wasn't 
his own. About the same time and on the same 
chalky range, but under Madams Court Hill 
this time, I was shooting with Willie Tonge of 
Morant's Court, the father of poor " Jacky " 
who played so successfully for Kent many 
seasons. Alas ! they both are lying peacefully 
enough now, poor dear fellows, under the waving 
elms in Chevening churchyard. Willie and I 
had a charming day, and I remember we got 
twenty-one and a half brace, which wasn't bad ; 

E2 . 51 

sporting Recollections 

but there were two things on that occasion that 
are vividly impressed upon my memory. The 
first is, that we did not once in the course of the 
day shoot at the same bird or take one that was 
not legitimately our own. The second was this. 
I may here remark that we had both been shoot- 
ing well, Tonge, as was almost always the case, 
especially so, for he was a very fine shot. A 
covey rose in front of us and received our four 
barrels. " Make a brace ? " queried Willie. 
" No, only one," was the reply. " Then why 
the devil didn't you make a brace .? " and answer 
was there none. 

Another day close by, but on a different shoot 
in the same well-known and beloved Holmesdale 
Valley I had, alas ! alone, a very satisfactory little 
day at a place called Combe Bank, which has 
been mentioned before in connection with a 
certain rabbit. My entertainer and cousin on 
that occasion and a tenant of one aforesaid 
"Pieman" — yes, verily! and times without 
number on others — was Count de Baillet, one of 
the most absolutely charming of men, most 
delightful and hospitable of hosts. I don't think 
I ever saw that dear good man look quite as 
happy as when, seated at his own table, he was 
surrounded by a party of sportsmen who were 
going to shoot his coverts next morning. More- 
over he never shot. My first acquaintance with 

Of an Old 'Un 

him was very soon after my ten years' absence 
from home in Africa and commenced in 1884, 
and on my part indeed most assuredly, and I 
venture to hope on his also, soon ripened into a 
warm friendship which, I am thankful to say, 
still continues unabated. He was then the 
tenant of Chiddingstone Castle, which belonged 
to our cousin. Colonel Streatfeild. I had been 
summoned to join in a few days' covert shoot, 
and we were indeed a cheery party. Before we 
started in the morning our dear old host took 
me on one side and said that to his sorrow he 
had noticed at dinner the previous evening that 
I drank nothing stronger than water, that he 
couldn't bear to see any guest at his table with 
an empty glass. Would my principles not allow 
me to take a few glasses of champagne, for it 
would please him very much .? I assured him 
that principles I had none beyond a very strong 
desire to keep fit and well, but that, having 
resided so long in a hot country, I had wholly 
got out of the way of drinking anything that 
was stronger than coffee or tea, but, at the same 
time, that I was prepared to change my habits 
at once at his bidding, and was more than willing 
when dinner-time came along to walk into his 
" fizz," so that he should have no further cause 
of complaint. I fancy he was quite contented 
with the way in which I bore my part. At any 


Sporting Recollections 

rate I have had the great pleasure of sitting at 
his table many hundreds of times in the last 
eight-and-twenty years, and I can testify that on 
no single occasion has that dear man found any 
fault with me over an empty glass, nor with the 
manner in which I gave it my attention when 
full. I remember well on that night in Novem- 
ber 1884, that I tried to assuage a thirst which 
had been steadily accumulating for more than a 
dozen years. The tap on hand was Ayala 1874. 
I found it a most refreshing and palatable drink. 
But to return to my solitary day at Combe 
Bank. It was at the beginning of October. 
My host never carried a gun himself. All 
the more honour to him then that he so 
delighted to provide sport for his friends. It 
was, so said my host, merely just a " larder 
shoot " and not nearly good enough to ask any 
one to join me. I assured him that it was 
amply good enough for any " sportsman " — nay, 
more, I told him I was certain we could make 
a very decent bag indeed. But his ideas were 
on a large scale, and so I had to take my way 
alone, as far as guns went, but I had a keeper 
and two good men to help me. I knew we 
should get a few outside pheasants, but for them 
I cared but little. What " sportsman " does 
care for early October pheasants ? But there 
was a fair show of partridges, wild but hitherto 

Of an Old 'Un 

unshot at, and they were the beggars I wanted 
to catch. There were some ten acres of raspberry 
canes in an eligible situation, with a nice (or 
nasty, perhaps, from a fruit-grower's point of 
view) rough weedy bottom. If only I could harry 
the birds about a bit, and then get them into 
those raspberry canes, I felt quite certain I could 
make them suffer. I did. We worked very 
hard and the men walked up most manfully. 
They fairly earned the somewhat liberal supply 
of beer that I sent for as we were laying out our 
bag in the stable-yard at sunset. It was twenty- 
two brace of partridges, nine or ten pheasants, a 
couple of hares, and two or three rabbits — total 
fifty-nine head. With a good shot and a good 
walker to help me it would have been well over 
a hundred head, and surely that is plenty, except 
for an utter glutton. 

Once upon a time in Aberdeenshire we were 
engaged in walking up partridges. We had 
driven a very good lot of birds into a field of 
roots nearly half a mile long, but not more than 
a hundred yards broad, and furrows running, not 
unnaturally, lengthways. We walked that field 
out along the drills more slowly than ever 
marched funeral procession, and of course getting 
scarcely a shot. Naturally the birds ran on 
along the drills in front of us the whole way 
down the field and, when they reached the end, 


Sporting Recollections 

nipped over the hedge in twos and threes, in 
half-dozens and dozens, rejoicing greatly. Now 
our worthy host, who was rather cross, had a 
good deal to say. He had read that when you 
have got your partridges into cover, you cannot 
walk them up too slowly. Rubbish ! When 
you are compelled to walk with the drills — 
never do it if you can possibly avoid it — go just 
as hard as you can lick. Better still. Before 
ever the guns go into the field at all send three 
or four men in at the other end. Let them 
slowly walk twenty yards up the field and stand, 
and it will do no harm if they wave their hand- 
kerchiefs on sticks, and this also serves to remind 
oblivious guns of their presence. Best of all, 
drive the field out, having posted your guns 
behind the hedge at the end. All this is written 
as to walking up partridges and in no way 
applies to affairs when birds are really wild. 
Then indeed we know well enough how to 
handle them. But, after all, as I think has 
been remarked elsewhere, walking up partridges, 
except under peculiar circumstances, is dead and 
buried, and a good thing too. 



Grouse shooting over dogs — The Cuchullins in the distance 
— The " Dragooner," the writer and a keeper — Five guns 
to one dog, the best sprinter annexes the shooting — Bob 
and shove-halfpenny — Folk who count their shots, kills 
and misses, how do they do it ? — A rough shooting — In 
the old Clansman to Ardlussa — A month m Jura — Wood- 
cocks — A yeld hind — O Lord ! two yeld hinds ! — 
Curtain — Deerhounds, Cavack — A magnificent chase in 

There is an infinite charm in shooting grouse 
over dogs, but the shooting itself is the sn:iallest 
part of the pleasure. Watching the dogs at 
work is to me by far the most interesting part of 
the entertainment, the actual shooting of the 
birds is assuredly the least so. What earthly 
pleasure can be derived by a sportsman in the 
plastering of birds which, so tame are they at 
times, as we have all seen early in August in the 
Western Islands — aye, and elsewhere too — that 
they have to be whipped up from the heather 
by the dog man .? There are, indeed, all sorts 
and conditions of shooting grouse over dogs. I 
can look back with infinite pleasure to many 
most delightful days when all went well, so well 
indeed that one felt almost inclined to exclaim, 


Sporting Recollections 

in the words of the poor little girl who died in 
such perfect peace nearly fifty years ago — 

" Linger," I cried, " O radiant time, thy power 
Has nothing more to give ; life is complete 
Let but the perfect present hour by hour 
Itself remember and itself repeat." 

Yes ! I shut my eyes and instantly in imagina- 
tion comes before me a scene, surely as fair as 
any on earth. It is evening, and as we rest on 
the braeside, before trudging home in the 
gloaming, we see those lovely CuchuUin Moun- 
tains spread before us. The setting sun throws 
the very deepest, blackest shadows among the 
rocky kloofs and gorges, while here and there 
he casts a lingering glow on the highest peaks. 
Could aught be more exquisite ? But away ! 
The sun is gone, and if we would not break our 
legs before we reach the lodge, we should be far 
on our way before night closes down on the 
scene. The " Dragooner " and I had been told 
off to a good beat for the day that had not as yet 
been shot over, and were looking forward to a 
real good day. At the last moment, however, 
our good host told us the plans had been changed. 
His head keeper had told him he could not allow 
the " Dragooner " and me to have the first day 
on that beat or there would be but little left for 
our successors. We would sooner have gone 

Of an Old 'Un 

without the compliment than without the shoot- 
ing ; but when we heard that we were to be 
relegated to a beat that had already been shot 
over three times and had none too big a stock 
left on it, our feelings towards the head keeper 
were anything but those of affection. Neverthe- 
less we had a most delightful day, far more 
enjoyable, I fancy, than we should have had on 
the unshot beat, where we should have found 
the birds the tamest of sitters. We elected as 
far as was possible to knock the very stuffing 
out of our beat. We walked very hard indeed 
and the ghillies did their level best to help us. 
There was no whipping up of tame birds that 
day, but the grouse chiefly walked up, flew well 
and made sporting shots in a good breeze. As 
we neared the lodge in the evening we were met 
by our friend the head keeper. 

" Well, gentlemen, what sport ? " he asked. 
Now it is most strongly borne in on my mind 
that the outside bag that villain expected us to 
make was about five brace. When, therefore, 
we replied nineteen brace and a half, his face 
became almost as long as a cricket stump and 
much about the same shape, and he said, " Nine- 
teen brace and a half ? Why, they only killed 
eight brace and a half last time." 

" Just so. But then, you see, we know they 
couldn't walk much, and strongly suspect their 


Sporting Recollections 

shooting wasn't a great deal better than their 

" Nineteen brace and a half," went on the 
angry man, " Why, you must have killed every 
bird on the beat." 

" Not quite ! All but one, we fancy. There 
was one old cock beat us — he was what you'd 
call 'joost a graund flier.' Last we saw of him 
was about two miles off and one mile high, head- 
ing straight for Portree. Perhaps you'd like to 
go and herd him back again." 

I never did like that keeper and was always 
sure he was an outrageous humbug. I don't 
think he liked either the " Dragooner " or me 
that evening. 

Now I wonder if any one of my readers has 
ever helped to make one of a party of five guns 
shooting grouse over one dog. I have done it 
frequently, but only, so to speak, under one 
ruler. I cannot believe it possible that there 
could be two men in the world so utterly, hope- 
lessly, brutally ignorant of everything connected 
with sport who would perpetrate such an atrocity. 
It was, nevertheless, marvellously amusing. The 
prevailing sentiment among the party was, snaffle 
all you can ! Shoot at everything that gets up, 
especially grey hens (I never was present with 
that crowd so late as the 20th August), and wait 
for nobody ! When the dog got a point the 

Of an Old 'Un 

finest sprinter got up first, waited for no one, put 
the birds up and blazed away. O ! but it was 
a spectacle for gods and men to look on at. I 
thank my God it is not in the very smallest 
degree probable, nay, more, it is not possible, that 
I can ever be found in such a battle again, neither 
forefront, hospital, nor baggage wagon. I had 
to obey orders in those days : Poor devil ! Quoth 
the raven. Nevermore ! 

It was a most exceptionally wet day, even for 
Skye ; the hills were blotted out and the rain 
was coming down without ceasing. The river 
was roaring through the glen, thick and im- 
possible, putting even fishing out of the question. 
Shooting was utterly hopeless.. So we were 
scattered about in the smoking-room, some of 
us trying to read more or less stale papers, one 
or two looking hopelessly across the bay towards 
Raasay, and all of us saying nasty things about 
the usual weather in the Hebrides and of Skye 
more particularly. Personally I was engaged 
ruling a few lines with a pencil on a square- 
sided deal table that stood in a corner of the 
room. Now there are some of us who have 
heard of a httle game called " Shove-halfpenny," 
but, on the other hand, there are a great many 
of us who haven't. Also there are some of us, 
especially those who have taken a great deal of 
pedestrian exercise all over England, who have 


Sporting Recollections 

absorbed liquid refreshment, of sorts, in roadside 
hostels, called by the initiated " country pubs." 
Those among us who are of an observant nature 
will have taken note that on the tables in the 
bar-rooms of some of these " pubs " lines have 
been traced, probably with a sharp fork, at right 
angles to its sides. These lines form the " court," 
so to speak, on which " Shove-halfpenny " is 
played. A certain line is chosen as the haven 
where you would be, the combatants are each 
armed with a penny, and their object after 
placing their pennies — one at a time, please — 
two-thirds on the table and one-third off it, is 
to knock their penny with the flat of the hand, 
in the manner we played " squails " in the past, 
on to the line chosen, or as near to it as possible. 
This game among the frequenters of " country 
pubs," the village Hampdens and the mute 
inglorious Miltons who have plodded their 
weary way to where the open, though some- 
what beery, portals, " far from the madding 
crowd's ignoble strife," bid them welcome, is 
usually played for pints, or even for pots, of 
four ale. 

Having thus, very feebly I fear, described 
this humble and inoffensive game, let me return 
to the Sconser smoking-room. I was practising 
with a penny when to my side strolled one Bob, 
and asked what on earth I was doing. I ex- 

Of an Old 'Un 

plained matters. Bob, although by no means 
averse to a little flutter on any game of chance 
or even on a horse-race, had never heard of 
" Shove-halfpenny." Having had half a dozen 
shots up the table with my penny, he exclaimed 
with scorn — 

" Well ! I do call that a rotten game. There's 

nothing in it. Why any d d fool could play 

just as well as any one else. Why, I'll play you 
right now, old man, a bob a shot. Fire away ! " 

" All right, Bob," I replied. " Probably you're 
right, but at the same time it's possible you may 
change your opinion." 

The next remark of Bob's is indelibly impressed 
on my memory, and this is how it ran — 

" D n ! That's thirteen bob to you, and 

thank you kindly. That's quite enough ' Shove- 
halfpenny ' for me this round ; and if ever you 
catch me playing the silly game along with you 
again, you jolly well let me know. There's a 
precious deal more in it than I thought." 

"Well, Bob," I replied, "to tell you the 
honest truth I rather fancied you'd come to that 
conclusion before I'd done with you." 

I notice in many of the sporting periodicals 
letters from men who have the deuce of a lot to 
say, not only about their guns, but, moreover, 
about their individual performances with them ; 
nay, more, they even go so far as to count their 


Sporting Recollections 

kills and misses — verily I am of the belief that 
the latter very largely predominate — they even 
count their shots, or say they do, and keep a 
record of the whole thing. Now I am most 
anxious to know how they do it, I am thirsting 
for information as to how it is possible to come 
to an accurate conclusion. Surely these sports- 
men can fire but very few shots, and they must, 
moreover, be more fortunate than most of us in 
the way of losing — to put it politely — cartridges. 
Now when we others go for a three or four days' 
shoot, our gunmaker sends on to the place where 
we are going to shoot what we consider the 
requisite number of cartridges. We do not open 
the boxes ourselves, nor do we fill our bags in 
the morning, at any rate the people with whom 
I have been so fortunate as to shoot do neither. 
How, then, in the name of heaven, can a man, 
unless he shoots on only the most insignificant of 
shootings, keep a correct tally of what cartridges 
go through his gun and what through dishonest 
pockets. It is wholly impossible. I only shoot 
now-a-days moderately, and very seldom get rid 
of more than 3000 cartridges in the season, but 
even with that very limited number it would be 
next door to impossible to keep a correct tally 
of the number of cartridges used, and of the 
hits and misses ; not only impossible but, more- 
over, utterly undesirable. Every one of us who 

Of an Old 'Un 

is a sportsman is well aware of whether he is 
doing his duty properly by the birds that come 
his way, and that is enough. He wants nothing 
more. It is by no means uncommon when 
there happen to be several of these gentlemen 
who count their shots, on hand, to see two or 
three of them " let go " at the same bird, which 
eventually comes slanting down to Mother Earth 
a couple of hundred yards off", runs like blazes to 
the nearest hedge, and is eventually scrambled 
into the bag by the help of a retriever and a 
keeper. I want to know who of the three 
" sportsmen " enters the bird in his record of 
kills and misses, and whether they all three enter 
it as a kill. I fancy it would not require a very 
Machiavellian conjurer to point correctly to the 
heading under which it would appear. Again, 
after a day on which three hundred pheasants 
had been killed, there would usually be a " pick 
up " of from ten to fifteen birds next morning. 
How many of these does the " counting man " 
put to his own credit, or did he perchance 
already count them and tick them off on his 
beastly registering machine when he saw them 
wobble away, hard hit in the rump, with the 
feathers flying off them as they disappeared ? 

What is usually described as " rough shooting " 

does not, when existing in England at any rate, 

appeal to me. It generally means a very few 

f 65 

Or t> 

Sporting Recollections 

shots of an exceedingly domestic nature at half a 
dozen pheasants and a few rabbits hustled out of 
hedgerows. This is a poor form of sport. One 
sees in the advertisement columns of certain 
newspapers, " Good rough shoot in Kent, Sussex 
or Surrey as the case may be, of 400 acres, no 
limit as to bag, rent ,^40." Well, we know that 
if on this " good rough shoot " there yet exist 
one old cock pheasant and one partridge that has 
neither produced an egg nor helped to do so in 
the present century, above ground, and under it 
but one broad-faced, long-whiskered, flea-infested 
old buck rabbit, these will be found on closer ac- 
quaintance to be the only denizens of the domain. 
But if, on the other hand, we are told of a good 
rough shoot in the much bleaker and wilder 
regions of Ireland, Scotland and the surrounding 
islands, do not our pulses instantly bound through 
their channels and does not our heart leap and 
our eye glisten with the thought of many wild 
fowl, an old blackcock or perchance even a 
" caper " scudding away through the fir-trees, 
and woodcock in dozens. Ah ! ye gods ! That 
is rough shooting indeed ! Thankful am I that 
even if never again such rough shootings fall to 
my lot I have endless most glorious days to look 
back upon. 

Many years ago, soon after Christmas I found 
myself steaming away on the old Clansman 

Of an Old 'Un 

round " The Mull," on my way to Ardlussa in the 
Island of Jura, I was awakened at about three 
o'clock next morning by a steward and told to 
hurry up as we were opposite Ardlussa House, 
but that there was as yet no sign of a boat. It 
was inky dark, and for all that I, indeed, could 
distinguish we might have been in the middle 
of the Atlantic or anywhere else. The old 
skipper was getting fussy and kept saying he 
could wait no longer, and I was beginning to 
wonder how on earth I should thresh my way 
back along the coast from Oban, to which port 
it appeared probable I was going to be carried 
when, O be joyful ! a light was seen in the 
distance, which soon after came dancing across 
the waves. As the boat came alongside, even as 
the steamer was beginning to forge ahead, I was 
with but little ceremony, but by able and 
willing hands, thrust overboard and heaved 
among the stalwart vikings in the boat, who 
were all, of course, McNeills, with my gun and 
impedimenta on the top of me. The old 
Clansman was swallowed up in the darkness 
and in half an hour I was sitting drinking most 
welcome hot coffee in the delightful halls of 
Ardlussa, into which, alas ! I shall never more 
find my way. I had indeed a glorious month, 
and was out with my gun from daylight to dark 
every day after something or other. I was not 

F2 67 

Sporting Recollections 

allowed an entirely free hand, for what was the 
use of bringing in more game than could be 
consumed. But I shot all the waterfowl, wood- 
cock and snipe that I could, which gave me most 
ample amusement. About once in every week 
my brother, who was my host, sent off to the 
south a large box of game and rabbits, and the 
day before its dispatch we always shot together 
and made the best bag we could, and often went 
far afield to the other side of the island to glens 
called Glendebedel and Glengarressdale, from 
which we could see the islands of Colonsay and 
Scarba, and overlook the far-famed Corryvreckan, 
concerning the terrors of which I suppose more 
thrilling legends (to speak quite mildly) have 
been set afloat than even about the Maelstrom 
itself. These two glens were celebrated for 
woodcock and, moreover, generally produced a 
few absolutely wild cock pheasants. Our bags 
when we went together were usually somewhat 
on these lines : Three or four pheasants, same 
number of duck, half a dozen snipe, a hare or 
two, plenty of rabbits when near home, a curlew 
or two and a dozen or fifteen woodcock. I 
remember on one occasion my brother and I got 
thirteen different sorts of game without, of course, 
any grouse or blackcock. 

Most unfortunately during that winter there 
was no hard weather at all on the mainland to 

Of an Old 'Un 

drive the " cock " over to the islands, so of course 
we didn't get a tithe of what have been shot 
there. The old keeper at Ardlussa, " Ouilliam," 
used to make my mouth water with reminis- 
cences of the woodcocks that had come over to 
Jura in the past during prolonged frosts on the 
mainland. Well do I remember an account old 
"Ouilliam" gave me of a man who once spent 
the month of January at Ardlussa after " cock " 
and shot four hundred and sixteen ; and, added 
" Ouilliam," " He was sair auld and he couldna 
shoot and he couldna walk. If you and your 
brither yon had been here then, man, we'd 'a' had 
weel ower a thoosand." 

All I can say is that I most deeply regret that 
I and " my brither yon " were not there. But 
in spite of those hecatombs of woodcocks in 
Jura, I firmly believe that the adjacent island of 
Colonsay is distinctly better. The accounts I 
have heard of " cocks " in that island fairly 
make me tremble. Indeed, from what I have 
seen myself, and I have shot on Colonsay a good 
deal, as the haunt of woodcock the two islands 
cannot be compared. Colonsay contains wooded 
glens that are a perfect dream of delight as 
covert for woodcock. At the top of one of 
these glens a lady once stood gun in hand and 
the little corrie was beaten out to her. She had 
twenty-seven easy shots and never touched a 


Sporting Recollections 

feather. There ! Would you Hke to have stood 
in her place, O my brother sportsman ? She 
told me about it herself and I have not the 
slightest reason to doubt her veracity. 

Ardlussa in those days was not, as is now the 
case, wholly deer forest, but my brother had 
killed many stags there and I am thankful to say 
it is still my happy lot to wander frequently in 
halls on the sides of which many a lordly head 
looks down, and is evidence of his prowess, for 
he was indeed a deadly shot. He sent me out 
one morning with old " Ouilliam " to get a yeld 
hind and impressed upon me most strongly that 
under no possible circumstance was I to shoot 
more than one. I can hear — " in my mind's eye, 
Horatio " — as I write, " and not more than one, 
young feller " (I was young in those days and 
would I were so still), " as you value your life." 
So away we went, Ouilliam and I, up into the 
hills, right away up Glen Vachigan (I haven't 
the slightest idea how it is spelt, but I remember 
that it means the glen of the calf) and three- 
quarters of the way across the island. Not long 
after we started I jumped across what my com- 
panion called a " wee bit burnie" and was met 
instantly with the rebuff, " Man Frank " (pro- 
nounced Marn Frarnk), " ye suldna dae that ; 
aiblins ye'll be needing yon loup before ye gang 
hame the nicht ; joost pit yer feet through the 

Of an Old 'Un 

watter and dinna loup." We saw no hind that 
" Ouilliam " fancied till the afternoon, but then 
we made out three, with a young stag accom- 
panying, and my guide said that any one of the 
three w^ould do. They were feeding away from 
us up wind, and with much care we followed 
them up into a little corrie below us and knew 
we should get an easy shot against the skyline 
as they passed over the opposite brae. I was 
lying flat in the heather and had a remarkably 
easy shot and felt perfectly certain I had shot 
straight. Not so the trusty " Ouilliam," who 
exclaimed, " A clean miss, ye didna touch her ; 
rin, man, rin to yon rock down the brae, rin hard 
and ye'U get anither shot as they pass ye on their 
way across the glen." Rin I did, like blazes, and 
got to the rock just in time to see the last hind 
gallop past not sixty yards off, a broadside shot. 
It required no conjurer to pull her over, and as 
she lay stone dead before me I put up a silent 
prayer that " Ouilliam " had been right about 
that first shot and that it had indeed been a clean 
miss. But I had very grave doubts. While he 
was gralloching the hind I went off to make 
assurance double sure as to that first shot. 
What " Ouilliam's " idea of a " clean miss " 
was I failed to understand, for O, horror of all 
horrors ! when I topped the brae on which she 
had stood, there in the heather not fifty yards 


sporting Recollections 

away lay the victim of the clean miss, shot 
through the heart ; and I had to wend my 
sorrowful way home and face the music. It 
was to me an uncanny dirge indeed. I did cztch 
it. The trumpet blew with no uncertain sound. 
I think I deserved it, for I ought to have known 
my shot was right and acted accordingly ; but I, 
being young and in that class of sport at any 
rate inexperienced, did not like to put my 
opinion against that of such an experienced old 
stalker as my companion. But it's too late, 
nearly fifty years too late, to remedy the evil 
now and to shed tears over that particular jug of 
spilled cream. 

Some years before the time of which I am 
writing the McNeills of Colonsay and Jura had 
been the owners of the breed of what were, I 
believe, the most magnificent deerhounds that 
ever existed. Two of these had been given to 
my brother, and most beautiful creatures they 
were. There was a gate in his stable-yard in 
England fully seven feet in height, and it was a 
picture to see one of them called Cavack sail 
over that gate, gracefully just touching the top 
of it, with the most perfect ease. It must indeed 
have been sport worth a great deal of trouble, 
watching two of those glorious hounds chase 
and pull down an unwounded stag. Few 
people read Scrope at the present day. I hope I 

Of an Old 'Un 

may be pardoned for reproducing an account of 
his of how Buskar and Bran, which belonged to 
my brother's father-in-law, Captain McNeill, 
performed such a feat about eighty years ago 
among the wilds of Ardlussa. The account 
runs — 

" No time was to be lost, the whole party 
immediately moved forward in silent and breath- 
less expectation, with the dogs in front straining 
in the slips ; and on our reaching the top of the 
hillock we got a full view of the noble stag, 
who having heard our footsteps had sprung to 
his legs and was staring us full in the face at a 
distance of about sixty yards. The dogs were 
slipped ; a general halloa burst from the whole 
party and the stag, wheeling round, set ofFat full 
speed with Buskar and Bran straining after him. 
The brown figure of the deer with his noble 
antlers laid back, contrasting with the light 
colour of the dogs stretching along the dark 
heath, presented one of the most exciting scenes 
that it is possible to imagine. The deer's first 
attempt was to gain some rising ground to the 
left of the spot where we stood and rather 
behind us ; but being closely pursued by the 
dogs he soon found that his only safety was in 
speed, and (as a deer does not run well up hill, 
nor like a roe, straight down hill) on the dogs 
approaching him he turned and almost retraced 


Sporting Recollections 

his footsteps, taking, however, a steeper line of 
descent than the one by which he had ascended. 
Here the chase became more interesting ; the 
dogs pressed him hard, and the deer getting con- 
fused, found himself suddenly on the brink of a 
small precipice of about fourteen feet in height, 
from the bottom of which there sloped a rugged 
mass of stones. He paused for a moment as if 
afraid to take the leap, but the dogs were so 
close that he had no alternative. At this time 
the party were not above 150 yards distant and 
most anxiously waited the result, fearing from 
the ruggedness of the ground below that the 
deer would not survive the leap. They were, 
however, soon relieved from their anxiety ; for 
though he took the leap, he did so more cun- 
ningly than gallantly, dropping himself in the 
most singular manner so that his hind legs first 
reached the broken rocks below ; nor were the 
dogs long in following him ; Buskar sprang first 
and, extraordinary to relate, did not lose his legs ; 
Bran followed, and on reaching the ground per- 
formed a complete somerset ; he soon, however, 
recovered his legs and the chase was continued 
in an oblique direction down the side of a most 
rugged and rocky brae, the deer, apparently more 
fresh and nimble than ever, jumping through 
the rocks like a goat, and the dogs well up though 
occasionally receiving the most fearful falls. 

Of an Old 'Un 

From the high position in which we were 
placed the chase was visible for nearly half a 
mile. When some rising ground intercepted our 
view we made with all speed for a higher point, 
and on reaching it could perceive that the dogs, 
having got upon smooth ground, had gained on 
the deer, who was still going at speed, and were 
close up with him. Bran was then leading and 
in a few seconds was at his heels and immediately 
seized his hock with such violence of grasp as 
seemed in a great measure to paralyse the limb, 
for the deer's speed was immediately checked. 
Buskar was not far behind, for soon afterwards 
passing Bran he seized the deer by the neck. 
Notwithstanding the weight of the two dogs 
which were hanging to him, having the assis- 
tance of the slope of the ground, he continued 
dragging them along at a most extraordinary 
rate (in defiance of their utmost exertions to detain 
him (and succeeded more than once in kicking 
Bran off. But he became at length exhausted ; 
the dogs succeeded in pulling him down, and 
though he made several attempts to rise, he never 
completely regained his legs. On coming up we 
found him perfectly dead with the joints of both 
his forelegs dislocated at the knee, his throat 
perforated and his chest and flanks much 
lacerated. As the ground was perfectly smooth 
for a considerable distance round the place where 


Sporting Recollections 

he fell, and not in any degree swampy, it is 
difficult to account for the dislocation of his 
knees unless it happened during his struggles to 
rise. Buskar was perfectly exhausted and had 
lain down shaking from head to foot, much 
like a broken-down horse ; but on our ap- 
proaching the deer, walked round him with a 
determined growl and would scarcely permit us 
to approach him. He had not, however, re- 
ceived any cut or injury ; while Bran showed 
several bruises, nearly a square inch having been 
taken off the front of his foreleg, so that the 
bone was visible, and a piece of burnt heather 
had passed quite through his foot. Nothing 
could exceed the determined courage displayed 
by both dogs, particularly by Buskar, throughout 
the chase, and particularly in preserving his hold 
though dragged by the deer in a most violent 
manner. This, however, is but one of the many 
feats of this fine dog. He was pupped in the 
autumn of 1832 and before he was a year old 
killed a full-grown hind single-handed. The 
deer was carried to the nearest stream, which 
was at no great distance, for the purpose of being 
washed ; which ceremony being performed we 
sat down to lunch in great spirits." 



My host and nephew " S— M "— Oransay — Shooting of the most 
varied description in Colonsay and Oransay—" Waller ! " 
God bless his brown eyes and black curly coat — A trifle of 
an upset at the edge of " the strand " one evening — Archie 
appears nervous on wheels and also a little later on in a 
boat — Oransay Priory and St. Columba — The McNeills 
— The mermaids of Oransay, otherwise seals — Dhu Heart- 
ach lighthouse — A very narrow shave for a shipwreck on 
Eilan-nau-Rou — Everlasting wind — A sorrowful upset 
thereby — S— M's crowners, /. r. Some of 'em — Hangman's 
Hill and its ancient rocky gallows. 

Exactly thirty-five years after that most charm- 
ing winter visit to Ardlussa v^^hen my host was 
my eldest brother,! found myself, accompanied by 
my wife and daughter, on my way to the adjacent 
island of Oransay to spend the whole winter 
with that same brother's eldest son as our host. 
In the Ardlussa days he was a tiny boy in the 
nursery and far too small to come out with us 
even near home or to go far from the shelter of 
his nurse's wing. But thirty-five years make a 
very considerable difference, and long before we 
took our way to Oransay Priory the tiny boy 
had developed into an exceedingly stalwart man 
well over six feet high and had become as fine 
and unselfish a sportsman as could be found in 
England. A good man over a country, a fine 


Sporting Recollections 

shot and county cricketer, and an excellent fisher- 
man. As a salmon fisherman I don't know a 
better. Such was my host for the whole of the 
winter months, and as he had been my host both 
for shooting and fishing times without number 
before, and I knew to the uttermost what 
manner of man he was, I looked forward with 
infinite pleasure to what I knew would prove 
some of the most sporting experiences of my 
life. The island of Oransay itself was rather 
more than 2000 acres, composed of heather, 
bents along the shore, and in some of the valleys 
swarming with rabbits, and on the northern side 
of the island rocky, heathery, bracken-clad banks, 
beloved of woodcock. Over and above the 
shooting on Oransay, S — M, as I will call him, 
our host, had hired the shooting rights of the 
south end of Colonsay from his uncle, the late 
Sir John McNeill, about three or four thousand 
acres, so we had quite as much as we could 

The varieties of the bags we made were most 
delightful. There were several coveys of par- 
tridges near the house which could always be 
found on the adjacent stubble, which we treated 
with the most gentle and ladylike hand, leaving 
certainly more than half of them behind us. 
Frequently from the upper windows of the 
Priory we saw on the same stubble rock pigeons 

Of an" Old 'Un 

that had come all the way from their homes in 
the cliffs at the rocky north coast of Colonsay, 
for a hard-earned feed, and then a stalk would 
ensue and anon a pie. We found those pigeons 
a most welcome addition to the larder. Bernicles 
came along in numbers towards the middle of 
October and, like the poor, were always with us, 
but usually at a distance, for it is no easy thing 
to get oneself within shot of the wily goose. 
The fields on Oransay, mostly pasture land, were 
divided by stone walls and, hidden by these, when 
circumstances were favourable we had many a 
successful stalk and, moreover, when the sky was 
clear circumvented a few by driving in the 
moonlight. A flock of Bewick's swans paid us 
a visit and for many days were visible on the 
strand between the two islands, but were never, 
crafty beggars, in a position that made it possible 
to get at them. It was at low tide quite easy to 
walk dryshod from Oransay to Colonsay, some- 
what less than a mile across the strand, but woe 
betide you if you dallied too long and allowed 
the incoming tide to steal a march on you, for 
then must ensue a long, weary wait in the cold 
of many hours. Truly we had a boat at a place 
a mile or so away where the passage was deep 
and not more than a couple of hundred yards 
across, and this we utilized on some occasions, 
I only once was caught at all badly by the tide, 


sporting Recollections 

and even then got across all right without swim- 
ming. O, but it was cold ! and my poor retriever 
" Waller " didn't like it at all and was very 
thankful indeed when he touched bottom. 
" Waller " has been a somewhat celebrated 
character in his time, and is still exceedingly 
well known on many of the shootings of West 
Kent. But alas ! like his master his day is very 
nearly over, and we find now that while even a 
gentle ascent makes one of us " grunt and sweat 
under a weary life," an old French partridge 
with only a broken wing can clean outrun the 
other. Never mind, " dear Waller," you and I 
are both very fully alive to the fact that " every 
dog must have his day," and by Jove ! we have 
indeed had it to the full ; and now — 

" When all the world is old, lad, 
And all the trees are brown ; 
And all the sport is stale, lad. 

And all the wheels run down " — 

No ! not even now will we " creep home and 
take our place there, the maimed, the spent 
among " ; nay, rather will we keep our flags 
flying, and so long as our dear good friends bid 
us welcome, struggle on manfully to the end, miss 
our birds, tumble head over heels into ditches 
with a smile, and enjoy everything just exactly 
as long as God will let us. 

"Waller's" career has been a very varied one. 

Of an Old 'Un 

He was born in the wilds of Namdalen and was 
the pup of an old retriever of mine that I had 
taken over to Norway for rypeshooting, and a 
Norwegian setter, a good little lady from both a 
sporting and domestic view. " Waller " and his 
brothers and sisters had been given away before 
our arrival at our Norwegian home in 1900. 
One morn appeared a damsel of the country 
leading on a bit of string a black retriever 
puppy which she averred was no good ; so she 
had brought him back again. I asked what 
education they had proposed for the puppy, and 
the reply was that it had been that of a goat- 
herd. I am no sort of a judge of goat-herds or 
indeed of goats, although I am prepared to swear 
that on many braesides in the Hebrides, when I 
have suddenly got their wind, I have nearly been 
knocked backwards. I am also quite ready to 
admit most freely that there are a great many 
people who would be at no pains to hide the 
fact that they are absolutely certain that it is 
among the flock of goats rather than sheep 
that my own future destination lies. I looked 
" Waller " over and thought him quite a nice- 
looking pup with an exceedingly intelligent face, 
and I therefore elected to keep him myself and 
commence his education forthwith. I have 
never regretted it, and a most wonderfully use- 
ful servant as well as a charming and affectionate 
G 81 

sporting Recollections 

companion he has proved. I brought "Waller" 
and a most lovely Norwegian elkhound home 
together, although I must admit that what 
with permits, rules, regulations, and, last, but not 
least, quarantine, I had an infinity of trouble. 
But that time also, at any rate, the game was 
well worth the candle. Moreover, at the end I 
managed to get a little fun out of the quarantine 
arrangements. To me one evening, grunting, 
perspiring, and mopping his face, entered Ser- 
geant Dogberry of the Kent County Police. 

"I am most truly sorry, sir, but I shall have to 
summon you. There's no help for it. I saw 
Miss Streatfeild in the village only a few minutes 
ago with both your Norway dogs running free 
and they had not even got muzzles on." 

" You don't mean it. Sergeant. Can't any- 
thing be done ? " 

" Nothing, sir, nothing ! You know that as 
well as I do. They shouldn't be out together, 
and must not be in the road at all unmuzzled. 
Surely you know all the regulations as well as I 

" Better, Sergeant, I think. But you're quite 
sure nothing can be done for me to avoid being 

" Nothing, sir. It's quite impossible. I'm 
really very sorry, but I must do my duty and 
report the case." 

Of an Old 'Un 

" Well, if you must, you must, of course," I 
went on. " But suppose I had a document in 
my pocket which set the dogs free from quaran- 
tine by order of the Home Office, wouldn't that 
make anv difference ? " 

"Of course it would, sir, but that's impossible. 
You couldn't have such an order without my 
knowing all about it." 

" Nevertheless, I have. Sergeant ! I got it yes- 
terday, and here it is. So now you can cut along 
and get your summons issued as fast as you like. 
But half a minute before you go. Suppose you 
come indoors and take a little light refreshment. 
You look to me as though you rather wanted 

" Waller " developed into an exceedingly use- 
ful retriever, and during the last twelve years has 
saved me and my friends endless birds. The 
setter blood in him has also made him most 
useful. During the winter I shot in Colonsay 
and Oransay he was invaluable, and was the 
means of putting a great many woodcock and 
many other pretty things into the bag. On three 
occasions I saw him catch woodcock as they rose 
from the heather. This seems almost incred- 
ible, for the dog did not pounce at them on the 
ground, but, on the contrary, stood perfectly 
staunch at his point and as the bird quitted its 
" seat " in the heather bounded at it, and, as I 
G2 83 

Sporting Recollections 

say, on three occasions caught it. I will at once 
confess that for rough shooting I infinitely prefer 
a "general utility" dog to one that sits behind 
you with manners that are perfect for church or 
a prayer meeting, but for retrieving a real old 
pedestrian cock pheasant who is quite capable 
of running across a couple of fair-sized parishes 
I prefer a generous and high-spirited dog. When 
big days are on hand, personally I prefer to leave 
my retriever at home for many reasons which 
are obvious. When " Waller" was young, I 
played golf a tremendous lot on a course called 
Limpsfield Chart, near the boundary of Kent 
and Surrey, which was in those days overgrown 
with masses of gorse in all directions and in 
which golf balls were lost in hundreds. What 
more to be desired than a clever dog to retrieve 
them .? I was looking on at a country cricket 
match one day and " Waller " was lying at my 
feet. A hefty smack to square leg deposited 
the ball in the bowels of an adjacent wood in 
which they sought it in vain. Then I was 
approached and asked if my dog would find a 
cricket ball. I replied that I had no idea, for I 
had never asked him to try, but I added that we 
would soon see. So I showed " Waller " a 
cricket ball and told him to go into the wood 
and seek. In a very few seconds he was out 
again with the lost ball in his mouth. Then 

Of an Old 'Un 

I took him to Limpsfield Chart, and in a very 
few days he was an absolutely perfect golf-ball 
finder. He was simply unfailing, and at the end 
of a day's golf we used usually to go round the 
links together and retrieve balls that members 
had lost, handing them over when we knew the 
owners and chucking the rest into my locker. 
I believe in the few years I played golf regularly 
"Waller" put some thousands of golf balls into 
my hands. I was once offered >^2oo for him by 
an itinerant golf-ball searcher who made a good 
living at it. My reply had better not be 
chronicled. I feel quite sure my publisher's blue 
pencil would supervene with no uncertain erasure. 
The distance at which a dog with a good nose 
can find a golf ball is scarcely credible. 

Very often we drove across to Colonsay in a 
farm cart, with a trusty old horse who knew the 
passage across the strand uncommonly well, and 
never seemed to mind the water a bit, even when 
it was well up his sides and swashing about in 
the bottom of the cart. There was a most 
ridiculous scene one evening, and O ! how we 
all did laugh. I except Archie, the ghillie, who 
seemed to think it was no laughing matter and 
took it very seriously. My daughter Evelyn, 
S — M and I were seated side by side in front 
with our guns between us and a rug over our 
legs. Evelyn was driving. We had just come 


Sporting Recollections 

through the strand and were ascending the shore. 
S — M was in the deuce of a hurry for his tea, 
or at any rate was, or seemed to be, in a hurry for 
something or other, and seized the whip out of 
Evelyn's hand and, taking it by the middle, hit 
the fat old horse with the butt end a fell stroke 
across the rump. The trusty animal — unlike 
salmon — being all unused to the butt on that 
part of his person, gave one tremendous grunt 
and bounded clean out of all the harness, which 
was indeed most abnormally rotten, and retired 
to a respectful distance, still grunting. Well, not 
unnaturally, the shafts went straight up into 
the air, and before we could have said even 
"Jack" not to mention " Robinson," we three 
found ourselves flat on our backs in the road, the 
rug still over our legs and our guns still in statu 
quo between us. Archie, the game and the dogs 
were freely scattered all over the place, and 
Archie with sorrowful face declared he was " sair 
birzed and churted," but I fancy he was only 
frightened a bit, and the Lord only knows why, 
for there was no cause for anything but peals 
of laughter. Why, even the trusty " Waller " 
laughed, but I have always fancied that good 
dog had a very strong sense of humour. We 
got up by degrees, collected Archie and the 
game, the dogs and the old horse, who hadn't 
gone far and was still grunting, and then 

Of an Old 'Un 

S — M calmly remarked, " Look here, ' Old 
'un,' Babe (that's Evelyn) and I will go on 
and order tea, and you and Archie can just 
patch up the harness and bring the rest of the 
kit along." And that, I presume, was what 
S — M would call a fair division of labour. 
On another evening I was returning from 
Colonsay by the boat passage, alone in the dark, 
and I had two dogs with me. It was blowing a 
full gale, with sleet and snow on its wings, dead 
in my face. The instant I got the boat 
launched and put forth into the deep the dogs, 
poor beasts, tried to cower down under the 
shelter of my body, thereby continually stopping 
the movement of at least one of my sculls, and 
then of course round came the bow of the tub, 
and instead of reaching our haven on the further 
shore we were instantly blown back to the one 
we had just quitted. Moreover, the sculls were 
not particularly robust, and even when I had 
succeeded in getting the bow of the boat into 
the eye of the wind, I dared not pull quite so 
strongly as I would for fear of a smash, when 
probably we should have been all drowned 
together, and most assuredly I should have lost 
for ever my beloved and trusty gun beneath the 
waves on those rocky and somewhat treacherous 
shores. Three several times did I get half-way 
across the passage and was blown round and sent 


Sporting Recollections 

flying back again. But the fourth time, some- 
how or other, we managed it and landed the 
right side of the channel, and thence I blundered 
my way home to the Priory. My wife told me 
she had sent out to the farm bailiff to ask. if he 
didn't think steps should be taken towards 
finding me, to which he replied, very wisely, 
that it would be no good, for if I had had any 
accident in crossing between the islands, I should 
at once have been blown straight across to Jura. 
I remarked not far back that during a very 
slight mishap we had with a horse and cart, one 
Archie was somewhat unnecessarily perturbed 
in his mind by the upset of the cart, and by 
suddenly finding himself heaved out into the 
road. I found on another occasion that the 
perils of the deep had no greater charm for him 
than those on shore. All round those rock- 
encircled islands when in a boat, one has to 
keep an eagle eye around for submerged reefs 
and take very great note of the breakers that 
are caused thereby, which suddenly rear up 
a crested head many feet and may break into 
your boat, and would inevitably swamp you. 
These breakers seem at times to rise up quite 
suddenly from an almost calm sea. I was once, 
when after duck and snipe, approaching a small 
island. Archie was rowing and we were waiting 
an opportunity to beach the boat safely. 

Of an Old 'Un 

Suddenly one of these breakers rose near us and, 
forming a crest, fell within very few feet of our 
boat. Poor Archie turned as white as a sheet, 
for no apparent reason, as we were close to the 
shore. I cheered him up a bit and told him it 
was quite all right, and that even had the wave 
come on board it couldn't have hurt us as we 
were so close to land. Archie looked at me 
cannily and then merely made the remark, " I 
canna soum." 

Some slight description of that winter home 
of ours will not be amiss here. The house itself, 
Oransay Priory, was, at the time it was built, a 
hundred and fifty years ago or thereabouts, with- 
out doubt a most desirable abode and very 
possibly kept out a great deal of wind and rain, 
and during the summer I can well believe it was 
not only most delightful in every way, but more- 
over, to make use of the words of the house 
agents, " an eminently attractive and charmingly 
situated mansion." But when in the middle of 
winter a south-west gale was raging round the 
gables, when the rain was penetrating through 
the roof in places without number, and when the 
patches of wet on our bedroom ceilings, at first 
the size of pocket-handkerchiefs, gradually as- 
sumed the proportions of full-sized counterpanes 
and began to drip with much regularity on to 
whatever happened to be beneath, the "eminently 


Sporting Recollections 

attractive and delightful situation of the mansion," 
in the estimation of the ladies of the party at any 
rate, appeared to leave a great deal to be desired. 
Close by the house on the north stands the finest 
lona cross that I ever saw, and near by the ruins 
of the ancient Priory, which are most interesting. 
There are many chambers, a chapel, a refectory, 
and many a relic of the dim and distant past. 
Stone coffins and sarcophagi on which here and 
there one could decipher a letter or two and 
perchance a number, but I was unable to dis- 
tinguish any date. In a corner of the old chapel 
were reposing peacefully a few skulls and other 
remains of the ancient dead of past centuries. 
For not only was Oransay Priory the last resting- 
place of endless McNeills of ages ago, but also of 
many a saint and holy one who had passed away 
even before the time when St. Columba paid his 
fleeting visit to Oransay. On the north side of 
the Priory, and perhaps about half a mile off, 
stands a huge blufF three or four hundred feet 
high, having a nearly perpendicular side where 
it faces it. St. Columba having fled away from 
Ireland in wrath at the treatment meted out to 
him by the wicked inhabitants of that green 
island, came to the saintly people of Oransay, 
which no doubt originally derived its name from 
the holy Saint Oran, purposing to sojourn with 
them for the remainder of his days. But ascend- 

Of an Old 'Un 

ing one day to the top of the bluff — it was 
assuredly a clear day — there on the horizon far 
away past the shores of Islay, far away in the 
south-west he could distinguish the coast-line of 
the hated Ireland near Malin Head, though what 
it was called in the days of St. Columba the 
present historian deponeth not. Finding then 
that the detested land so lately quitted was still 
visible from his elected home, he would none 
of it, but shook off the pebbles of Oransay accu- 
mulated in his saintly sandals in disgust, took 
boat and passed forward in peace to the more 
blessed regions of lona, where he lived, died and 
was buried and lies in the company of monarchs 
of Scotland, Ireland and Norway who on occa- 
sions according to traditions — firmly believed in, 
however, by the superstitious highlanders of 
those regions — 

"... stalk forth with sovereign power 
In pageant robes and wreathed with sheeny gold, 
And on their twilight tombs aerial council hold." 

I remember reading many years ago a tale 
under the heading "The Mermaid of Oransay. It 
was a very thrilling story, but its details have 
passed from my memory. The weird moaning 
of the seals heard by night around the island, 
particularly when more than usually stormy 
weather was approaching from the Atlantic, 


Sporting Recollections 

would indeed go far towards the making of 
legends, where the most imaginative superstition 
among the islanders runs in their very blood, 
and where almost every uncanny sound by night 
is woven by them into some mysterious and 
supernatural tale of the past. There were two 
kinds of seal always with us at Oransay, the 
common one [Phoca vkulind) in great numbers, 
and a few of the great grey fellow {Halkhcerus 
gryphus). There were always some of these on 
the reef that ran out towards Eilan-nan-Ron from 
the south point of the island. There was a very 
large and splendid old fellow that I knew well. 
Often have I rowed quietly and slowly to within 
fifteen yards of him, and stared him in his grim 
old face before he saw fit to roll off into the sea. 
He was far the largest seal I ever saw in this 
country. Long may he live and be the ancestor 
of unnumbered progeny. Of course we never 
shot any of the poor beasts. We had no quarrel 
with them and they seemed to know it, for some- 
times they came close to our boat and stared at 
us with their beautiful great mild purple eyes. 
I think their moaning was the most weird and 
bewitching sound I ever heard. Many a time 
have I stood at the door of the Priory at night 
and listened to it as it came to my ears, rising 
and falling in the wind across the waves. Well 
might one fancy that such uncanny sounds could 

Of an Old 'Un 

only emanate from the drowned mariners who in 
the past years had been cast into the depths below, 
and from their hidden caverns were calling in 
vain for peace. 

In the burying-place of the Priory I noticed 
the graves of one or two people that I had known 
in the long ago, who had been buried there 
comparatively lately. But I can think of no 
McNeills of modern days, with one exception, 
who have found their last earthly resting-place 
among the scores of ancestors who must have 
lain there for centuries and are still waiting for 
the trumpet call. The one exception was the 
last of the clan to own Colonsay, Oransay, Ard- 
lussa, and Gigha, John McNeill. He was carried 
to his rest across that island that I know so well 
from the yacht that bore him north, since we 
were there, and although I know the spot where 
he is lying so intimately, in all human probability 
I shall never look upon his grave. He was 
indeed a man. As brave a soldier as ever drew 
breath, a courteous gentleman and a cheery 
generous comrade. I trow indeed that " after 
life's fitful fever he sleeps well." 

From the top of the high bluff behind the 
Priory, if you look, on a clear day, in almost 
the opposite direction to that in which St. 
Columba did when he saw the coast of Ireland 
for the last time, you will see, far away out in 


Sporting Recollections 

the Atlantic, a granite column rising above the 
waves. That column is the Dhu Heartach light- 
house, named after the rock on which it is built. 
That solitary rock is but eighty yards long by 
fifty broad. On a still day the Atlantic waves 
do nothing more offensive than send spray forty 
or fifty feet up the tower ; but, on the other 
hand, often and often during winter gales have 
I watched broken water in tons fiying right over 
the top of the lighthouse, which is over one 
hundred and fifty feet above high-water mark. 
On the west there is nothing between the coast 
of America and Dhu Heartach, and it is sur- 
rounded on all sides by deep water, which 
accounts for the stupendous size and force of 
the waves from the Atlantic Ocean which in 
times of storm fall upon it. The absolute neces- 
sity for a lighthouse on Dhu Heartach had been 
very well known to the authorities for many 
years, but it had been found impossible to 
undertake the erection of one until the year 
1 867. To any one acquainted with these regions, 
the vast importance of a light at the position 
of Dhu Heartach, guarding as it does, to a very 
great extent, the navigation of the Minch, the 
entrance to the Irish Channel, and the Firth of 
Clyde, must be abundantly apparent. Previous 
to the erection of this light, there was a portion 
of this most frightfully dangerous and rocky 

Of an Old 'Un 

coast of nearly fifty miles, /. e. from the light- 
house of Skerryvore in the north to that of the 
Rhinns of Islay in the south without a light of 
any sort. Wrecks were, of course, in compara- 
tively old days, of very constant occurrence, and 
the hardy vikings of those regions were in the 
habit of garnering a rich harvest of timber and 
wreckage that was strewn all too frequently 
along their inhospitable shores. If ancient 
records be true, the fierce islanders were not 
only exceedingly willing to accept everything 
thrown up from the sea, in the shape of flot- 
sam and jetsam that came their way, but were, 
moreover, not averse to exposing misleading 
beacons and false signals in order to lead the 
unfortunate and unsuspecting mariners to their 
doom. During nearly the whole of the winter 
of 1902-3, that we spent at Oransay Priory, we 
were kept in firewood of the best description, 
in the shape of sawn pine beams that were cast 
ashore in thousands, evidently from a Nor- 
wegian vessel wrecked, God alone knew where 
or how ! It must have been miles and miles 
away, for no sign of the vessel or of those who 
had sailed her ever appeared. 

I was standing one day on the south point of 
Oransay, and about a mile away from me was 
a small rocky island called Eilan-nan-Ron with 
surf raging round it, for it was, as was usual, 


Sporting Recollections 

wild weather. Suddenly I saw, for the only 
time that winter, a vessel approaching from the 
west. As she came near I observed that she 
was almost battered to pieces, that her boats 
were all carried away, and that her masts were 
but remnants, and that on these she had a rag 
or two of sail set and was crawling along before 
the gale at, perchance, three or four miles an 
hour. She approached the island and appeared 
unable to steer away from it, and entered the 
breakers surrounding it. Now, it so happened 
that in a perfectly calm sea I had gone in a 
small boat a few days before to retrieve a wild 
goose that had fallen on the very spot where 
that ship was now passing. I should have 
deemed that it was utterly impossible for a brig 
of over a thousand tons — as this wretched vessel 
was — to have made her way unscathed through 
that labyrinth of rocks and broken water. Never- 
theless she did it. She forged her way on and 
on through the breakers, while we — our whole 
party collected by that time — aghast and spell- 
bound watched her, expecting every moment to 
see her crash into the rocks and go to pieces, 
for indeed I well knew what merciless fangs of 
rocks she had within but few feet of her on 
every side. But no ! — she went through every- 
thing without touching, and sailed into the 
open water beyond and safety. She made her 

Of an Old 'Un 

way to Scallasaig Bay, where she anchored. We 
ascertained afterwards that not only was she 
almost battered to fragments and very nearly out 
of provisions, but moreover that half the crew 
were down with typhoid, and that, last of all, 
there was not a soul among them who, when 
they had passed the perils of Eilan-nan-Ron, had 
any idea of where they had been, or who had 
ever sailed those waters before. In due course 
a tug came along from Glasgow and towed the 
poor battered hulk away. 

The lighthouse of Dhu Heartach was com- 
menced in 1867 and completed in 1873. That 
it took so long to erect will not be wondered at 
when the stupendous difficulties that had to be 
surmounted are taken into consideration. The 
base of operations was perforce many miles 
away — about fifteen — at Earraid on the Ross 
of Mull, and from this place every stone, every 
bit of iron, every bolt, had to be conveyed by 
steamer. Not infrequently it was found, on 
nearing the rock, that the sea was so wild that 
no approach was possible, and all the cargo had 
to be taken back to Earraid again. It will per- 
chance somewhat surprise the reader to learn 
that during the late autumn months and the 
winter no work of any sort was possible — indeed 
even to land on the rock at all was out of the 
question. Even in the middle of summer the 
H 97 

Sporting Recollections 

weather was not infrequently so wild that all 
work had to be suspended. During the whole 
of the year 1868 it was found possible to land 
on the rock on thirty-eight days only. A 
barrack was erected on the rock for the use of 
the workmen. This consisted of a large iron 
drum which was capable of housing, for sleeping 
purposes, fully a dozen men. This drum was 
erected on the top of an enormously strong 
malleable iron framework. Now it must not be 
forgotten that the top of this drum was seventy- 
seven feet above high-water mark. During the 
month of August 1868 an engineer and some 
artificers landed on the rock in calm weather 
to proceed with their work. This was on the 
20th. A storm came on during the night, and 
those wretched men — fourteen of them — were 
closely imprisoned within the drum, sixteen feet 
only in diameter, until the 26th. Imagine it ! 
While they were thus imprisoned, during the 
height of the storm, and unable to descend to 
the rock even for a moment, heavy broken water 
frequently rose above the top of the barrack — 
seventy-seven feet above high-water mark, and, 
falling on it, wholly obscured all light for several 
seconds. While these things were going on 
over their heads, beneath them solid water was 
dashing through the framework that supported 
the barrack thirty-five to fifty-five feet above 

Of an Old 'Un 

high-water mark, and such was the force of the 
waves that the hatch in the floor of the barrack 
was burst up. What a truly awful situation ! 
And it must be remembered, at the same time, 
that not yet had the barrack and its supporting 
framework been proved by a storm and found 

The solid masonry of the lighthouse itself, 
what we laymen would designate the foundation, 
rises to 64 feet 4 inches above high-water mark. 
Taking into consideration the awful power of the 
storms of even summer, this enormous height 
above sea level for constructing the entrance to 
the lighthouse was not deemed excessive, although 
compared to other and well known lighthouses 
it seems very great. For instance, the height of 
the solid masonry of the Eddystone is but 10 feet 
3 inches ; of the Wolf 16 feet 4 inches ; of the 
Bishop in the Scillies 23 feet, and of Skerry vore, 
which although apparently situated in a position 
which is equally exposed to the roaring Atlantic 
billows as is Dhu Heartach, required a solid 
foundation of less than half its height. Men of 
science are of the opinion that the exceptionally 
heavy seas that rage around and over Dhu 
Heartach are caused by the formation of a sub- 
marine valley at the head of which the lighthouse 
stands. After a storm which came on during 
July 1869 a landing on the rock was in due 
H 2 99 

sporting Recollections 

course effected and it was then ascertained that 
fourteen stones weighing two tons each which had 
been firmly dovetailed into their positions with 
Portland cement had been carried away, and that 
eleven of them had been swept off the rock into 
deep water, and this at a height of over thirty-five 
feet above high-water mark. I could tell of many 
more catastrophes and accidents to masonry and 
machinery during the building of that lighthouse, 
which has without a shadow of doubt been the 
means of saving many a vessel and countless lives 
from a watery grave. But to the infinite credit 
of those concerned it should be stated that 
through all those years from 1867 to 1873, 
although surrounded by various and unnumbered 
perils of all sorts both by land and sea, there was 
not a single serious accident to life or limb. Even 
now that the work has been completed for many 
a long year and all has gone well, there are many 
dangers still for those who tend the light and who 
pass the greater part of their lives on that wild 
and desolate rock. The relieving keeper is taken 
every fortnight by steamer from Earraid and 
landed on the rock. But such is the exposed 
situation, and such almost without exception the 
wildness of the sea, that the steamer has to be 
anchored outside the surf and most cautiously 
backed in towards the rock until the men and 
provisions can be landed by means of a portable 

Of an Old 'Un 

derrick which is erected by the keepers on the 

I shall in all human probability never again 
look upon Dhu Heartach lighthouse, but the 
remembrance of it will never fade away. 
Whether I recall it as seen during a winter 
storm across the raging waste of Atlantic waves, 
with the wildly flying spray dashing far over its 
head, or whether I think of it as I so often 
welcomed its kindly beaming rays while wend- 
ing my way across the hills towards home in 
the gloaming, I shall always in my heart have 
a kindly thought for Dhu Heartach, and for 
its surroundings of such infinite beauty and 

It will easily be gathered that wind, from the 
gentle zephyr, a very, very rare visitor, that on 
the occasional fine day graciously cooled the 
brow as one climbed the heights of Hangman's 
Hill after grouse, to the raging winter hurricane, 
was a very large, nay more ! an enormous 
factor during a winter in Oransay. There were 
many days when shooting was out of the question, 
when one could scarcely stand, and to traverse 
those rocky uneven hills, gun in hand, would be 
absolutely dangerous. I was coming home from 
shooting one evening on which a fierce gale had 
arisen. As I neared the Priory I was watching 
my wife, whom I had observed taking an airing 


sporting Recollections 

(indeed it was an airing and a half), partly 
sheltered by an adjacent wall. But to gain 
the house she had to pass across an open space 
to reach another protecting wall. Across this 
space the wind blew in all its fury, but it was a 
fair wind, if indeed any such blustering brutality 
could be called fair, and wafted the poor pedes- 
trian along most swiftly if not very gracefully 
for a few yards. Then the end came, and 
twenty yards short of the protecting haven she 
was blown down flat on her face and had 
ignominiously to crawl, a most sadly dishevelled 
wreck, into the harbour. I went as fast as I 
could to her assistance and we duly reached 
home. Now under such circumstances as these 
my heart literally bleeds for our poor dear 
women. They have nothing to say about it 
that can be of the very smallest comfort. " Oh 
dear," or some such rotten expletive is the best 
they can do, and I must candidly confess that 
such cotton wool as that wouldn't in any crisis 
be the very slightest use to even the very selvedge 
edge of my soul. I should indeed have very 
much liked to have been present, if my stalwart 
nephew S — M had ever happened to have been 
blown flat on his face like the above. Verily I 
trow the words that would have flowed from his 
usually chaste lips would have savoured rather of 
fire, brimstone and bitterness than any cotton 

Of an Old 'Un 

wool. I must acknowledge that I have heen 
very near to him on several occasions when he 
has taken what I can only describe as the most 
infernal and imperial crovvners to the very great 
detriment of himself, his rods and his reels, but 
then the woe has been too deep, altogether too 
deep, for any expletives, and had I dared I should 
have exclaimed in the words of Malcolm (not 
McNeill), " Give sorrow words : the grief that 
does not speak whispers the o'erfraught heart 
and bids it break " ; instead of which I have 
only been able to staunch the blood flowing 
from knees and knuckles, and gather up the 
fragments that remained of reel and rod. 

I referred lately to Hangman's Hill. This 
was part of the shooting in the south of Colon- 
say that for the time being was ours. It was a 
rocky heather-clad hill rising about 500 feet 
above the level of the sea, and round its foot- 
hills it was fully five miles in circumference. 
Game of all sorts was to be found on it, pheasant 
and partridge, for at its base was a certain amount 
of arable land, black game, grouse and many 
woodcock, snipe and wild fowl. Could aught 
from a sportsman's point of view be more en- 
trancing ? But it is more from the executioner's 
standpoint that I am regarding the hill just now, 
and at the same time an executioner with a 
hempen cord, rather than a double-barrel breech- 


Sporting Recollections 

loader. As you pass along the foot of the 
western side of the hill you can see, far above 
you, jutting out from the top of a sheer preci- 
pice, a flat rock. From a certain point on careful 
inspection you will be able to distinguish a hole 
in this rock through which the sky is visible. 
Through that hole in days long gone by — very long 
let us hope — the wild and ferocious inhabitants 
of Colonsay and Oransay, and other islands too 
for aught I know, used to carry out their death 
sentences. I wonder how many centuries have 
elapsed since the gallant clan McNeill escorted 
a batch of their foes, after a vendetta with some 
other clan, up to Hangman's rock and precip- 
itated them then one by one into eternity. It 
would matter little whether there was a rope 
round their necks or not, for there was a drop 
of fully 200 feet on to a mass of rugged rocks at 
the bottom. Many a time have I stood on 
that flat rock-gallows with the rope hole at my 
feet, many a time have I sat in the heather on the 
braeside above it, and have pondered on the past. 
It was not difficult to people the hill with a troop 
of rugged highlanders, claymore in hand, or to 
picture the band of prisoners, dour and stern 
after the manner of their kind, with arms bound 
behind them, so soon to be launched from that 
beetling crag. 



Shooting in distant lands — Ignorance of the ordinary colonist 
as to sport and natural history — Guinea-fowl — Spiny-tailed 
ducks — Madagascar goose — Sand-grouse and their habits — 
Snipe the " Spookbird " — A day after snipe at Noneye's 
Vley — Another Mistress Gilpin of frugal mind — Quail — 
A very long and tough journey by a man, and the Lord 
was on his side — Another by a woman when He wasn't — 
East London in Cape Colony — And a little description of 
a sleeping chamber for a lady. 

As a very great part of my life has been passed 
abroad it is not wonderful that I have had 
shooting of most varied descriptions in many 
distant lands, but chiefly at the Cape of Good 
Hope and its surrounding dependencies. There 
I not only had time for much shooting, but 
also ample leisure for studying the natural 
history of the country and the habits of all the 
living things in which I took delight. I think 
the first thing that strikes one at the Cape is 
the almost universal ignorance of ninety-nine 
out of every hundred persons who go forth for 
the pursuit of game, as to the habits and even 
as to the names of the creatures they are after. 
When I first took up my residence in the Cape 
Colony I sat at the feet of a certain Gamaliel 
who was not nearly so ignorant as most of the 


Sporting Recollections 

inhabitants, and gathered a great deal of in- 
formation from him. But as time went on and 
my searching after natural history lore went 
deeper, as 1 was able to procure books and 
study them, I ascertained that three-quarters 
of what I had been told was wrong. For 
instance, there is a bird called the Namaqua 
partridge. It is not a partridge at all, but a 
sand-grouse. They have a bird they cull a teal, 
and as such it was introduced to me. So far 
from being a teal, it was not even a duck, but 
a goose {Nettapus madagascariensis)., and a most 
lovely little fellow it was, with a Right like 

I found after a time that on a certain lake 
about twenty miles from my home there was 
a species of duck that I had seen nowhere else. 
No one seemed to know anything about it or 
had ever shot one. The lake was surrounded 
by a broad belt of high reeds, far higher than 
one's head, which grew in water and bottom- 
less mud. And there was no boat of any sort 
nearer than the Knysna harbour about twenty 
miles away. There was nothing for it but to 
procure a boat, and this I did at some trouble 
and expense, and it was duly brought along on 
a bullock wagon. I could do nothing at the 
time of its arrival, for I was very busy the 
whole day long skinning a white-tailed eagle 

Of an Old 'Un 

{Halicetus vocifer) which I happened to have 
stalked and shot en route, and my word ! how 
that brute did stink. He is somewhere or other 
in England now, and I trust in Heaven he is 
a little less odoriferous than he was that day, 
or the visitors to the Museum where he is now 
sitting will be few and far between. 

The next day I launched my craft and 
approached the unknown ducks. There were 
plenty of them, and they let the boat come 
within easy shot, but quicker divers I never 
saw. They were as smart as any bird I ever 
shot at, be it what you will, grebe, scoter, or 
any other amphibious brute. But of course I got 
some in due course, and they turned out to be 
spiny-tailed duck [Erismatura maccod). There 
appeared to be not a soul in the district who 
had ever seen one of them, or even knew they 
existed. Leopold Layard apparently did not 
know of this lake, called Groen Vley, or of these 
ducks that had their dwelling-place on its waters. 

In Bechuanaland there are in places untold 
numbers of sand-grouse of three species. In that 
desert country they fly miles and miles to drink 
at some desert pool, sometimes in thousands. A 
man told me that he once let drive into a flock 
that had settled on the edge of a pool and 
killed two large pailfuls, and that man was a 
missionary. So of course it must be true. Yes ! 


Sporting Recollections 

Of these three species, two, /. e. Pteroc/es tachypetes 
and Pterocles variegatus, come down to drink in 
the morning about eight or nine o'clock un- 
failingly, and never in the evening. The third 
kind, Pterocles bicinctus, drinks in the evening 
only, just when night is coming on, and in 
the morning never. Now, when I lived in 
Bechuanaland I never came across a soul, not 
even a missionary, who had ever noticed this 
evening-drinking bird, or even knew it apart 
from the other morning-drinking fellows, in 
spite of its peculiar markings. If any close 
observer of the habits of birds is prepared to 
differ from me on these points I shall be only 
too delighted to touch my hat and take a 
lesson. But I am not inclined to gather in- 
formation from the casual colonist, or even from 
the missionary who shot two pailfuls of sand- 
grouse at a shot. I shouldn't wonder, if that 
missionary still lives (and he seemed a pretty 
hearty upstanding old liar), if his shot hadn't 
produced two wagon-loads by this time. 

I have at times in various parts of Bechuana- 
land shot a great many guinea-fowl. They 
are, when one can succeed — a rare occurrence — 
in getting them decently cooked, by no means 
bad eating. But they are most eminently un- 
interesting birds to shoot. They always run 
away from you if they can. But one can 

Of an Old 'Un 

sometimes run them into thick scrub where 
they lie like stones. Then if you have a good 
doe he will nose them out, and you will get 
many shots of an exceedingly simple nature 
such as would be given you by shooting at a 
miniature fire balloon with the words, " God 
save our good Squire " painted on it, and sent 
up into space at a village festival. I have 
once and only once found guinea-fowl worth 
shooting at. It was at a place called Tsining 
in Bechuanaland. I had a mate with me, and 
we were pursuing a very large flock of the birds 
across some rough veldt. My mate was a 
desperate slow mover, and the farther we walked 
the farther the guinea-fowl got ahead of us. I 
told him that I should run, and that he could 
potter on after me at his leisure. I ran for 
about a mile and saw nothing ; for we had 
already lost sight of the birds when I started. 
So I sat me down on a rock and waited for my 
companion. It appeared that I had run right 
through the birds, for as my mate came strolHng 
on with his dog he got right in among them 
and kept flushing them two or three at a time, 
or singlv, and many came past me well within 
shot and at a decent height and pace. I got 
about fifteen, and that I honestly believe is the 
one and only occasion on which I derived the very 
slightest satisfaction from shooting guinea-fowl. 


Sporting Recollections 

I have done a certain amount of shooting in 
the Argentine Repubhc, but I had no books and 
no preceptor who knew a single thing about the 
birds of the country, and as the Gauchos were 
unable to lasso birds or even, with the exception 
of rheas, to circumvent them with their bolas, 
they took no interest in them and could give one 
no information whatever. I shot a great many 
duck, a few geese, a swan or two (with a rifle), 
and heaps of snipe. I fancy the snipe were 
Nigrlpennis, but I honestly don't know. Then 
there were fast-flying birds that they called part- 
ridges, very like a glorified quail, and slow-flying 
lumbering brutes that lived chiefly among the old 
Indian cornfields that they called pheasants, but 
which I suspect were Tinamou. But in writing 
of these things I acknowledge my hopeless ignor- 
ance, and plead guilty at once to feeling like 
old Tennyson's "infant crying in the night, and 
with no language but a cry." 

Most assuredly the shooting that I loved best 
at the Cape of Good Hope was snipe. The 
partridge (Francolin) shooting was amusing, and 
led one through the most exquisite country in 
and among the foothills of the Outeniqua Moun- 
tains. Moreover, my beloved Rab was in those 
days still with me, and I would contentedly have 
gone out shooting monkeys if only I could have 
that dear dog at my side. But snipe-shooting 

Of an Old 'Un 

was the best of all. When I first dwelt in 
that country I was informed that the ordinary 
snipe was exactly the same as the English bird. 
Of course, I very soon ascertained that it was 
not, but that it was the Blackwing [Gailinago 
ceqiiatorialis) . The black-winged snipe at the 
Cape is called by the Africanders " the Spook- 
bird." I presume this arises from its occasional 
habit of "drumming" at night. I must ac- 
knowledge that when I have been riding along 
in solitude across the rolling wastes of Kafirland 
that weird noise as it rose and fell suddenly over 
my head possessed very ghost-like qualities. 
Had I not known exceedingly well what made 
it I honestly think I should have been startled, 
and should possibly have felt somewhat inclined 
to look up among the stars for some uncanny 
apparition. The common British Snipe {Gal- 
imago ccslestis), as we all know well, makes the 
same drumming noise. Indeed in the Test 
Valley, where the snipe have their nests in scores 
during the springtime, I have often watched the 
birds making their magnificent flights, which 
cause the noise, two or three at a time ! But I 
have never heard their drumming in England 
during the hours of darkness, although I have 
walked over the whole of South Hampshire at 
every hour of the night and at all seasons of the 
year times without number. Then there were 


Sporting Recollections 

the Golden Snipe and the Painted Snipe, two 
separate species as I was told. Of course, in 
reality they were the same bird, male and female 
{Khynchcea capensis). I was not told of the 
" Solitary " until I had been at the Cape many 
years. I heard of it at East London : went 
there, saw, and shot several. Afterwards in the 
Transkei we saw them frequently, and my two 
sons on one occasion got fourteen " Solitaries " 
in the day, besides a whole lot of others, in a 
marsh formed by the river Qwaninga, about 
twenty miles from our home. It was wonderful 
in that country the manner in which the snipe 
followed the rain. As long as it was dry there 
wasn't a snipe to be seen, but directly there was 
rain enough to make the land about the heads 
of the rivers marshy, along came the snipe, 
sometimes in numbers. Our bags were usually 
from thirty to fifty, and these were generally 
made within twenty miles of home. I was once 
on my way to a distant magistracy to do some 
work, and saw, about sixty miles from home, 
a most seductive-looking marsh. I made in- 
quiries and found out that it was called Noneye's 
Vley, and that at times it held many snipe. I 
even took the trouble to walk a little way into 
it, and to my joy put up several snipe. " All 
right ! All right ! " I said to myself, and to the 
snipe, " My little dears, I'll come and call on 

Of an Old 'Un 

you again very shortly." Therefore, but very 
few days afterwards, one of my boys and I set 
ofF and got more than half-way to Noneye's 
Vley by sundown, and put up for the night at a 
brother " Beak's." We were off again before 
dayhght, and reached the Vley in most excellent 
time and had a most delightful day. We got 
over sixty snipe and a few quail, and flying about 
over the marsh most of the day was one of those 
exquisite egrets [Ardea garzetta). Oh no ! we 
didn't shoot the poor lovely beast, in spite of his 
osprey plumes. Why in the name of all foolish- 
ness osprey ? We had some lunch that day, or 
rather we brought some. I am not likely to 
forget that lunch ! The evening before our 
hostess, who, like Mistress John Gilpin, had a 
very frugal mind, had inquired if we would take 
some lunch with us. We replied that we would 
be grateful, and that anything would do. Mrs. 
Gilpin took us at our word. There was a very 
small parcel on the hall table in the morning, 
which we chucked into one of our orderly's wallets 
and departed. When we opened that paper parcel 
in the middle of the day we found it contained 
a small chunk r bread. Bravo, Mrs. Gilpin ! 
Man cannot live jy bread alone, so we chucked it 
to dear Hettie, our retriever, who didn't seem to 
think very much of it. That wasn't the only 
time I had suffered semi-starvation at the hands 
1 113 

Sporting Recollections 

of Mrs. Gilpin. We finished our shoot, and I 
am sure that what snipe we left behind us that 
day in Noneye's Vley were uncommonly few 
and far between. When we sat down to supper 
that night we had been fully twenty-four hours 
without a mouthful of food, had ridden over 
fifty miles, and had enjoyed most thoroughly an 
excellent day's shooting. It was, of course, 
nothing for me, for I was acclimatized, and was, 
moreover, like Thackeray's " gorging Jack and 
guzzling Jimmy " in the immortal ballad, old 
and tough. But it was an uncommonly hard 
day for the boy, who was only seventeen or 
eighteen, and who, as far as I could see, was 
neither weary nor sorrowful. 

The quail-shooting around our house in the 
Transkei was superb when it was a good season 
and quail were //;. The food that attracted them 
was the seed of the Watsonia. At times quail 
came in in thousands, and when we had a party, 
or my sons, with us we enjoyed quail-shooting 
to the utmost, and made very large bags. When 
I was alone, however, which was usually the 
case, I hardly ever molested them. But on one 
occasion they were " in " in such numbers that I 
thought that, just for once, I would see what I 
could do. I was in my office for a short time in 
the morning, and then started. I came in again 
some time before lunch with i88. I was deadly 

Of an Old 'Un 

sick of it and shot no more that day. I am per- 
fectly certain that I could, had I wished, have 
got 500 in the day quite easily. 

About the same time I had suddenly to under- 
take a journey of nearly 850 miles, i.e. from my 
home in the Transkei to a place in the district 
of George. It must not be forgotten that this 
journey took place more than thirty years ago, 
when the means of locomotion at the Cape of 
Good Hope were very different from those 
existing to-day. At breakfast-time one morn- 
ing a telegram was handed to me which ran as 
follows : " If possible come at once, attack of 
hemorrhage, Walter." I sent back a wire, " Am 
on the road, Frank." The telegraph office was 
forty miles away, but it was on my way west. 

I ought to explain that my eldest brother, the 
one with whom I had sojourned years before at 
Ardlussa, who was, alas ! at the time of which 
I am writing, suffering from consumption, and 
had already survived more than one dangerous 
attack of hemorrhage, had been ordered to the 
Cape, and was staying with our old friends the 
Walter Dumbletons, who had in the first 
instance welcomed me and mine to the Colony. 

Within ten minutes of receiving the message, 
having slipped on a riding kit, I was in the sad- 
dle and away. I rode, with frequent change of 
horses, something over fifty miles to a roadside 

'2 115 

sporting Recollections 

hostel, where I was able to hire a Cape cart 
with two good horses. With these I made 
some five-and-twenty miles more, and found 
myself at a place called Draaibosch, nearly 
twenty miles from Kei Road railway station. 
It was by this time nearly ten at night, was 
raining in torrents, and pitch dark. Could they 
let me have a horse .? Woe is me, they could 
not. What few horses they had were all away 
out on the veldt, and for all they knew might 
be miles off. In that inky blackness it was of 
course utterly impossible to find them. There 
was nothing for it but " Shanks his mare." I 
was in tiptop training and had less than twenty 
miles to go, and six hours in which to do it, to 
catch a train which I knew ran at four o'clock 
the next morning. Sounds quite easy, doesn't it .? 
But had you known that road and that country, 
and not forgotten the intense darkness of the 
night, you would have thought otherwise. I 
dreaded most exceedingly losing the track, and 
I well knew that once lost it was any odds 
against finding it again. I don't think I ever 
felt the want of a star or two to guide me as 
badly as I did that night. I lost the track once, 
and only once, I am thankful to say. But 
indeed the few minutes that elapsed before I 
found out where I was seemed hours. I thought 
I knew where I was, but could not feel sure 

Of an Old 'Un 

But I remembered a certain ditch, the boundary 
of a farm that I knew, that if I had my bearings 
correctly should be within two or three hundred 
yards of me. If I could not find it I must sit 
down and wait till daylight. That would mean 
missing the train, and the mail cart to Graham's 
Town, and the train again to Algoa Bay, and 
the weekly Cape mail steamer, and lose me 
best part of a week. It was awful. With these 
thoughts in my brain, and in the pitiless deluge 
of rain, I moved slowly forward. On and yet 
on until hope almost died. I thought of my 
poor brother with the shadow of death hovering 
so near. Should I ever reach his bedside in 
time to press his hand once more .? On and 
still on in the darkness. O, Heaven be praised ! 
A stumble and a real good bump, and I found 
myself sprawling at the bottom of the ditch. 
Surely never was mortal man dying of thirst so 
thankful to stoop down to a cooling stream as I 
was to take that toss into that most merciful 
ditch. After that all was well, for I soon got 
my bearings and the track was easily regained. 
In due course I saw the lights of the station, 
and caught my train with a few minutes in 
hand. An hour or so later I was seated in the 
mail cart in King William's Town, and started 
on my eighty-six (I think) mile drive to 
Graham's Town. There I caught the night 


sporting Recollections 

mail train to Algoa Bay, and went straight to 
Messrs. Donald Currie's shipping office. Now 
the big mail steamers very seldom indeed called 
at a rotten little place named Mossel Bay, which, 
it being only about fifty miles from Oakhurst, 
the Dumbletons' place, was the haven I sought. 
Could they possibly give orders for the steamer 
to land me there next morning .? Utterly im- 
possible ! They were most kind and polite, but 
said it was out of the question. I said that if it 
was merely a matter of expense I would gladly 
pay £^o for the accommodation. " Is it a case 
of life or death, Mr. Streatfeild ? " they asked. 
It must not be forgotten that we were pretty 
well known travellers on both the Donald Currie 
and Union lines. " Yes ! on my honour it is ! " 
was my reply, and I explained matters. " Then," 
said the manager with a smile, "we won't touch 
your fifty pounds, sir, but we'll do it for 
nothing." Now wasn't he a real lady .? I then 
proceeded to lay a dak, as they call it elsewhere, 
by wire, and went on board. When we reached 
Mossel Bay next morning I found a Cape cart 
waiting for me on the jetty, another half way to 
George, where was yet another, and we rattled 
off that fifty miles in quicker time, I fancy, than 
it was ever done before. I reached Oakhurst in 
exactly seventy-nine hours from the time I had 
left home, and was not in the very smallest 

Of an Old 'Un 

degree tired, although I had had scarcely a wink 
of sleep, for I had, as usual, been deadly sick, 
while on the sea, and hadn't had my clothes off 
at all. I was anyhow dry again, and that was 
something. When I entered the train at Kei 
Road station, I was just as wet as if I had spent 
the night at the bottom of a pond. Walter 
Dumbleton met me at the door, and his first 
words were " You haven't come in answer to 
my message, have you ? it's impossible." It 
took him some time to believe it, for indeed it 
was a wonderful concatenation of most ex- 
ceptional circumstances that had enabled me 
to accomplish in very little over three days 
what usually took a sohd week. I found my 
brother much better, and he was able to talk 
to me in a whisper for a few minutes. The 
smile of welcome that his wife gave me, dear 
loving woman, was ample repayment for the 
journey. I stayed with them for many weeks, 
indeed until he was well enough to travel, and 
then we took him very, very carefully by gentle 
stages down to Mossel Bay and Cape Town, 
whence I saw him off to England. And now 
for the description of yet another journey, but 
not by me this time. This httle episode is 
addressed to ladies to show how bravely and 
manfully one of their dear sex can overcome 
difficulties and put up with many horrible 


Sporting Recollections 

vicissitudes, when, poor things, they are following 
their wretched husbands who happen to be 
Government Officials in distant and degraded 

When I ascertained that in looking after my 
brother I should be absent from home for many 
weeks, I made arrangements for my wife to pay 
some visits with friends in the regions of Cape 
Town, and sent a message to her at once to 
leave our distant home in the wilds, make the 
best of her way down to the coast at East 
London, a place very well-known at Lloyd's for 
its dangers to shipping, for its Bar — not a 
drinking one, a watery one — which was not 
infrequently impassable for weeks together, and 
for many other exceedingly disagreeable things, 
and take ship for Cape Town. Among these 
disagreeable things, on one occasion, a box of 
my wife's was broken open during the night in 
the lock-up of the landing-stage, and several 
hundred pounds' worth of jewellery stolen. I 
take the liberty of cribbing from a book, written 
at the time of which I am writing, a few words 
about that horrible place. East London, which 
depicts it thus : " Reader, have you ever visited 
East London ? For your own sake, I trust not. 
Do you purpose ever doing so ? Let me implore 
you to postpone your visit sine die. Let me 
assure you it is impossible to be in East London 

Of an Old 'Un 

without a feeling of intense gloom and depression 
coming over you, and that you will never recall 
the time of your sojourn there without stimulants 
at once suggesting themselves to your mind." 

To this dirty hole, then, did that poor woman, 
my wife, have to make her way, alone and 
unaided, nearly a hundred miles to Kei Road 
railway station, and from there by train down 
to the coast. In the regions of the Transkei 
there are no forwarding agencies, and nothing 
whatever in the shape of a Carter Paterson or 
Pickford. It would be an easy matter to place 
a card in your window, /. e. if you were lucky 
enough to possess a house to hold a window in 
its walls (as a matter of fact we had no house 
at the time, and only a row of Kafir huts in 
which we dwelt) ; but there that card might 
remain unseen until the blast of the trumpet at 
the day of judgment shook it to the ground. 

A sleigh, drawn by two or more bullocks, was 
requisitioned for the transport of my wife's 
portmanteaux to Kei Road. A sleigh is merely 
the fork of a tree aptly chosen for the purpose, 
cut to the right dimensions by deft hands. 
Across the fork are nailed a few spleats, and into 
holes drilled in the fork are inserted a few up- 
rights. Through these are woven withes up to 
a height of three feet, and you have your means 
of transport complete. With this vehicle it is 


Sporting Recollections 

perfectly marvellous what can be accomplished. 
One can convey goods across exceedingly rough 
country, up and down rocky kloofs, and through 
rivers ; but in crossing rivers your goods are 
taken over on men's shoulders, and the sleigh 
swashes after the oxen at its own wild will. 
On such a conveyance, then, did my wife see her 
things depart for a visit of at least two months 
into the heart of civilization, I mean Cape 
civilization. (All right, Herbert ! We weren't 
going to visit you, although we did have the 
luck to see a good deal of a very strong and very 
charming man and his family, who was your 
predecessor in the past, and whose heart your 
father broke a little later on.) O, ye dear sweet 
damsels, and stately matrons, whom I love and 
reverence so greatly, how would you like to see 
your beloved belongings, your silks and satins, 
your frillies and furbelows, to say nothing of the 
fragile fabrics of your hats and other frail (I 
mean nothing) appurtenances, chucked into the 
above-described vehicle, anon to disappear from 
your own gently ministering hands and sorrowful 
gaze for many days, to be cared for only by two 
or three almost naked black heathens, to whom 
the very idea of a Paris bonnet or an Ascot frock 
would be on a par with handing a peche Melba 
on a golden dish to a duck-billed platypus ? 
Such was the beginning of that journey. 

Of an Old 'Un 

Next day my wife followed on horseback, 
with a couple of orderlies for a seventy mile ride, 
a twenty-five mile drive, and then three hours' 
train, oven would be a better and more appro- 
priate word. Luck was not on the poor 
woman's side. The day before her start our 
best two horses returned from a long journey of 
one hundred and eighty miles, that they had 
taken with one of our boys going back to school. 
They were both wofully tired, and my wife's 
dear beast, a lovely grey mare and fleet as the 
wind, had shown us only too plainly that her 
lungs had gone wrong and that consumption was 
coming on. Of course she could not be ridden. 
As a matter of fact she was never ridden again. 
She was allowed, dear gentle creature that she 
was, to wander about at her own sweet will ; 
but she gradually got worse until the end. She 
used to come to the windows and put her head 
in and talk to us, and implore us with her lovely 
eyes to do something to help her. But all we 
could do was gently to sponge the trickle of 
blood from her nostrils and tell her how we 
grieved for her. Then the end came, for we 
saw the poor dear was suffering. So one morn- 
ing I took a rifle and led her away. I dared not 
trust any one else to do it. So with one tired 
horse that poor woman started. 

It has been my lot, times without number, to 


sporting Recollections 

ride that seventy-mile journey that was before 
her, under every imaginable circumstance; indeed 
I have — for purposes of preserving my figure 
(ladies will sympathize, I know) — often walked 
it, but nothing can exceed the misery, the down- 
right misery, of riding mile after mile in broiling 
heat along that dusty track where, absolutely 
and truly, for many miles the only shade was 
that thrown by the telegraph poles that carried 
the wire from the Cape to Natal. She spent 
two nights on the road for poor Bob's sake, for 
she said it made her heart bleed to keep him 
going even at a foot's pace ; for a woman can't 
get off and walk as we men can to ease her poor 
" gee." At last she got to the end, to a place 
called Komgha, and found a cart really ready 
for her, to her intense relief. You others will 
sympathize. Then came the three or four 
hours' drive ; then three hours' train, and then 
East London. Not a soul to welcome the poor 
tired creature, not a smile to greet her as she 
alighted from the train, not even a friendly 

porter to say " By your leave ! " or " D ! " 

Well ! the other thing. She says she would 
have been only too thankful to be just sworn at, 
if only the voice of the swearer had been 

She had recovered her luggage at the Kei 
Road station, for the sleigh and its attendant 

Of an Old 'Un 

satellites had been faithful. This deposited, she 
sallied forth, tired out, half dead with heat and 
fatigue, and not unnaturally with a splitting 
headache, to find a bed for the night. And . . . 
and . . . and there was a race-meeting on in 
East London, Need I say more ? To those 
who have seen a colonial race-meeting in a 
thirteenth-class Cape Colony town I need say 
nothing. They know ! To those who have 
not, no words of mine that my kind and not too 
particular Publisher would allow to be printed 
could possibly convey a vestige of the truth. 
Hell itself, broken loose, would be a Methodist 
conventicle compared to a race-meeting in those 
days at East London. Under such circumstances 
forth went my wife to find some place where 
she would fain lay her aching head for the 

The first hotel that she went to, where we 
were well known, and had often stayed, was full 
from floor to ceiling. Even the billiard table, 
and the floor under it, were engaged knee-deep. 
The manager said there was not a single spare 
bed to be had in the whole town at any price. 
In spite of this, that wretched, tired-out creature 
called at all the hotels and a lodging-house or 
two, but in vain. Then she returned to Hotel 
No. I, sought the manager, and threw herself on 
his mercy. After an interview with one of the 


£• , » A, 

sporting Recollections 

waiters, and a certain amount of bribery, this 
knight of the napkin was induced to give up his 
chamber for the night. My wife tells me that 
when she entered that chamber and looked 
round, she very nearly burst into tears ; and 
that, had she not been so deadly tired, she would 
have fled. It was an awful scene. The crockery 
was all broken and dirty, soiled linen and shiny 
black clothes were hanging on surrounding pegs, 
and the bed . . . but here we draw the line. 
When she was left alone she locked the door, 
looked round with a gasp, and, without undress- 
ing, shut her eyes and cast her poor worn-out 
body on that awful bed, and her aching head on 
that loathly pillow. Think of it ! you who 
have never known what it was to lie on any- 
thing but the snowiest of sheets, and the softest 
and sweetest of pillows, perchance even — 

"... In the perfumed chambers of the great 
Under the canopies of lofty state 
And lulled with sounds of sweetest melody." 

Times without number have I watched that dear 
creature sleeping like a lamb on the lap of 
Mother Earth, and at times wet to the skin, 
with her face protected from the dripping rain 
by a sunshade stuck in the ground beside her ; 
but never in her life, as she assures me, had she 
felt any annoyance or been in the smallest degree 

or an Old 'Un 

incommoded by her sleeping quarters until she 
found herself in that degraded den of the waiter, 
and with her head on his disgusting pillow. Oh, 
the comfort next day of finding herself in a nice 
bright clean and sweet cabin in one of the Cape 
liners, and dancing along over the shining waves 
towards Agulhas. 



Cricket — My first match — Poor " Siiivvy," in other words 
Edward McNiven — Alfred Lubbock — one Jumbo — 
Neville Lubbock and Fred Norman, point and lob bowler 
— The village grocer and six bottles of "fizz" — The 
cricket company — Old Samuel Gurney the Quaker — The 
" Butterflies " at The Mote, and an umpire — A bellyful 
of bowling at Rickling Green and H. E. Bull, a Harlequin, 
plays for the Quidnuncs and scores over a hundred — The 
Authenticsat the King's Arms,Westerham — The Old'Un's 
week — A Streatfeild eleven — Dear lovely Pusey — Kent 
cricket in olden days. 

In looking through a very long, but by no 
means dim, vista of the past, w^hat innumerable 
scenes connected with cricket come before me. 
What endless friendships w^e made, many of 
which, alas ! were terminated by the grim king 
years ago, while many, owing to our paths tak- 
ing us along devious ways through life, and 
perchance far apart in the world, died a natural 
death. " Horasnon numero nisi serenas," as the 
sundial remarked to Phoebus, when the clouds 
collected. I have not the smallest intention of 
referring to anything connected with cricket 
that was unpleasant, nor to any people who were 
disagreeable. Cui bono ? The first match in 
which I remember playing was in 1857, and it 

Sporting Recollections 

was Westerham against Edenbridge. Poor Ted 
McNiven, nicknamed " Snivvy," was our skipper, 
and there were many playing on both sides who 
were, or became, well known to fame. I think 
McNiven was the strongest man I ever had to 
deal with. On one occasion, not very long 
before his death, when I was a very well devel- 
oped boy of about fifteen, I was shooting with 
him at Perrysfield, his home near Oxted. I fell 
across a ditch, with my gun in my right hand, 
and with my feet on one side and my left hand 
on the other, and could not move without 
getting into the water. I called to " Mac," who 
was close by. He came, and, with the words 
" You poor little beggar," stooped down, and 
with one hand took me by the seat of my breeches 
and lifted me up as easily as if I'd been a rabbit, 
and put me on my feet again. I feel sure my 
old friend Phil Norman will forgive me for 
cribbing a few lines about poor old " Snivvy " 
from his most excellent book, Annals of the 
Wtst Kent Cricket Club, in which book, by 
the same token, he most kindly wrote some very 
pretty things about this present scribe. 

" Edward McNiven, a magnificent hitter, was 
this year (1845) Captain of the Eton Eleven. 
He was afterwards in the Cambridge Eleven, 
and according to Lillywhite in the Cambridge 
Eight, but I do not find that he rowed against 
^ 123 

sporting Recollections 

Oxford. In 1851 he played for the Gentlemen 
against the Players. Once in a match against 
the Artillery at Woolwich he hit three succes- 
sive balls, an eight, a six and a four, all to square 
leg, Calvert fielding. He was killed by a fall 
from his dog-cart while driving near Westerham 
in 1858. McNiven took a leading part in the 
Town and Gown row immortalized in the 
Pu?7ch parody of Macaulay's Lay called 'The 
Fight for the Crescent,' a lay of modern Cam- 
bridge, where he figures as ' Fitzwiggins ' — 

"Fitzwiggins floored fierce Freestone, 

Tom Noddy levelled Hobbs, 
And cheerful Merrypebbles 

Blacked both the eyes of Dobbs ; 
And the aggravated Townsmen 

Stared all appalled to see 
On the flags the unconscious peelers, 

In the Pass the dauntless three." 

I well remember hearing that when " Mac " was 
at Cambridge Nat Langham was very loath ever 
to put on the gloves with him ; for, said the wily 
Nat : " No ! Mr. McNiven, 'e don't 'it me often, 
but if 'e do 'it me, you see I'm mostly in bed 
for best part of a week." I can well believe it. 
At the same time he was the gentlest and most 
absolutely sweet-tempered of men, and was 
intensely beloved by every soul, rich and poor 
alike, through the whole country-side. As I 
pass by his grave in Oxted Churchyard, I still 

Of an Old 'Un 

heave a sigh when I think of that magnificent 
man and gentle, kind-hearted being, cut down 
in the very flower of his manhood, for he was 
only thirty, through a rotten, silly, unnecessary 
accident. He had been shooting pigeons on 
Godstone Green, and on going away saw fit, as 
he stood up ,n his dog-cart, to drive over a bank 
and dnch He was shot out over the back and 
ell head first on to a stone which cut a hole in 
the back of his head in which you could have 
laid a small rat. As they picked him up he said 
with a laugh : " My old head will stand many 
such a crack as this." But it didn't. He lapsed 
into unconsciousness as they carried him into 
the httle "pub" close by, and never spoke 
another coherent word. In the summer of i 8 c8 
Hugh Smith Barry-the present Lord Barrv- 
more-and I were keepers of Sixpenny the 
Lower Boy Club, at Eton. One of the brightes 

r KK I' J""' ^^'"'" "^'^ ^^- -Id Ilfred 
Lubbock He and I were in the same division, 
and usually I fear rather nearer the bottom of i 
than the top, and used to be together a great 
deal wet-bobbing and dry-bobbing, and formed a 
nendship which still lasts, although he hves in 
the far West of England, while I dwell in the 
l^ast; I left Eton quite young, while he 
remained and won honour and great glorv on 
the ^tented field, and developed ifto onf of'the 

Sporting Recollections 

very finest cricketers in England, and I venture 
to say the most graceful bat of his time. I 
always thought old Alfred was one of the most 
charming men I ever knew, and as an athlete 
and exceptionally graceful and upstanding of 
men I scarcely ever, if indeed ever, saw his equal. 
And I think, above all, stood out in bold relief 
the fact that he never for one instant put on one 
shred of side. But (big "But," please, Mr. 
Printer) he was the most disagreeable brute I 
ever knew in my life when he was on the opposite 
side and I had to bowl at him. I am thankful to 
say we were usually on the same. In 1862 the 
Eton Ramblers came into being, and poor Steenie 
Cleasby and Alfred were good enough to make 
me a member at once, and I played for them 
intermittently for many years. I knew all the 
eight Lubbock brethren well, was at Eton with 
five of them, and was great friends with some, 
and fag for one. I once played with John 
Lubbock, now Lord Avebury, in the year i860. 
Like my friend Lord Harris on another occasion 
and with a very different man, G. M. Kelson, 
that very fine old Kent cricketer, I most vividly 
remember the red uppers of John Lubbock's 
cricket shoes at the match in question. He was 
skipper for West Kent, for which club I played 
very frequently a few years later. I have indeed 
had the honour of playing on several occasions 

Of an Old 'Un 

with old Herbert Jenner Qenner-Fust) and was 
at Eton with his son. In the 'sixties I played a 
great deal for the old Sevenoaks Vine in the days 
when "Deb" Monson used to manage it so 
excellently well, indeed far better in my humble 
opinion than it has ever been managed by any one 
else. In his day we played just the very best 
clubs, Household Brigade, Gunners, Sappers, I Z, 
Quidnuncs, Harlequins, etc., and most delightful 
games we had. Ah me ! what a phalanx of 
names comes to me as I write from the past, and 
how few yet remain ! And their grandchildren 
now wield the willow where we bore our part, 
let us hope non sine gloria, half a century ago. 
My kind friends were good enough to let me go 
on playing cricket, and even go so far as to give 
me a hearty welcome, long after I had, as I fear, 
ceased to be any good, and when my years had 
well exceeded the half-century. If, however, I 
was but little good in the cricket field, I venture 
to hope I was not altogether useless in the house 
when the fun waxed fast and furious. I have a 
vivid remembrance of sundry cricket weeks, and 
perfectly gorgeous fun that ensued thereat. I 
remember at a certain Kentish mansion one 
Jumbo {Peace, Jumbo ! Shake !) saw fit one 
night to go to bed early, and not only to go to 
bed early, but moreover to lock his door after 
him ; for he was tired, poor dear little fellow ! 


sporting Recollections 

The locked door was an offence that cried aloud 
to heaven. What was to be done ? Now, it so 
happened that around that Kentish mansion, some 
fifty or sixty feet from the ground, ran a parapet 
a foot or so broad under the top windows, the 
windows of the bachelors' rooms, among which 
was that of the gentle Jumbo. What easier ? I 
called unto me one S — M who has, I think, 
appeared elsewhere in these pages, and who in 
those days, exactly twenty-five years ago, was 
precisely twenty-five years wilder than he is now, 
and together we stole our way very slowly and 
safely along that parapet. We came to a 
window and felt sure it was the gentle Jumbo's. 
So I wrapped a handkerchief round my fist and 
let go through the window. Instead of, as I 
expected, encountering nothing but the pure air 
of Jumbo's chamber, my fist came very hard 
against a board at the back of a dummy window 
that we had clean forgotten. No matter ! We 
very soon found the right one, jammed a hole 
through it, undid the latch, scrambled into the 
room, and had the gentle Jumbo cut of bed and 
on to the floor before he knew whether he was 
awake or otherwise. Then ensued a deadly fray. 
It appears to me now that the disbedded one 
was somewhat cross, but in this I am quite 
prepared to admit that I am probably wrong, 
for dear Jumbo is the sweetest-tempered of 

Of an Old 'Un 

mortals, although during what ensued in the far 
from silent watches of that eventful night he 
proved himself most fiercely aggressive. He 
flew at me like a lion — tiger if you like it 
better — and with one fell blow laid me flat on 
the floor. But woe is me, ere ever I reached 
Mother Earth, mother carpet I mean, there 
intervened something most wofully hard. It was 
the coal-scuttle, and there is on my person — (no 
details, please, Publisher) — a counterfeit present- 
ment of that coal-scuttle indelibly impressed for 
evermore. Dear, gentle Jumbo, I love you still ! 
Early next morning some very foolish and ill- 
advised young men of the party having carefully 
examined the parapet asserted that had we not 
been " tight " we should not have paid that 
nocturnal visit by such an exalted path to 
Jumbo's chamber. So, just to show that they 
were wrong, and that at the same time there was 
no ill-feeling, I danced merrily along the self- 
same path in my night-shirt. On yet another 
occasion, same establishment late at night, one 
Joey came to me with tears in his eyes : " I say, 
old man, I'm awfully tired. What's the best way 
to secure peace from you ragging devils ?" " Go 
to bed, Joey, my child, and leave your door wide 
open, and not a soul will cross your threshold." 
Yes ! there is still honour among thieves, thieves 
of a certain sort I mean, not including some 


sporting Recollections 

newly made peers, card-sharpers, welshers, 
haberdashers, and company promoters. I inter- 
viewed Joey in the morning, and he assured me 
that his slumbers had been unusually peaceful 
and that no ill dreams or evildoers had disturbed 
his rest. 

Since the days of Helen of Troy there has 
generally been a woman at the bottom of 
every strife. It was so on this the following 
particular occasion. We were a party of four in 
a carriage on the G.W.R. Joey, two darlings, 
and myself. Said one of the darlings, the more 
mischievous one : " I should like to see you two 
boys try if one can put the other up into the 
net." So we tried. It was a pretty gorgeous 
rag : but as we were all on our way to a water 
party, and were " flannelled fools " for the 
occasion and " muddied oafs " later on, please, 
what cared we ? Joey was much the bigger 
man, and probably stronger than I was, but no 
stayer, and not a quarter as hard. There was a 
fierce fray, and we were for a few minutes all 
over the carriage, but at length poor old Joey 
was clean blown and done for and cried " Pax I" 
and I easily got him up into the net, where he 
was more than content to lie quiet and grunt. I 
don't remember that the victor was presented 
with any laurel wreath though on that particular 

Of an Old 'Un 

A very charming country cricket match that 
I can recall that took place about fifty years ago 
was Westerham, a very strong club in those 
days, against Sevenoaks Vine, which was at that 
time managed by Capt. Saunders. We had in 
our team some most valuable assistance in the 
shape of a few Normans and Lubbocks from the 
West Kent Club, while the Vine had several 
players whose names on the cricket field are 
among the immortals — Rashleighs, Fields, Kel- 
son, Rogers, and others. On our side was a 
very fatal — fatal that is to the other — combina- 
tion formed by Fred Norman bowling lobs and 
Neville Lubbock at point picking them off the 
bat as a street Arab picks out winkles with a 
pin. Lubbock fairly surpassed himself that day. 
When the bowler started for his run, Point was 
standing decently seven or eight yards away ; 
but when the ball reached the batsman I don't 
think he was ever more than a few feet av/ay. 
This combination of talent had secured several 
wickets when Saunders, the skipper of the Vine, 
came in with wrath on his brow and winged 
words in his mouth. He vowed to Neville that 
if he once came within reach of his bat he'd 
smash his head in. We saw a grim smile appear 
on Point's face. Saunders took guard and Fred 
Norman proceeded to bowl a good length lob 
with a curl from leg. Saunders played back to 


Sporting Recollections 

it, and like lightning, like an arrow from a bow 
— for indeed in those days Neville was more 
active than any kangaroo — " Point " dashed in, 
and ere the ball touched ground was in his 
hand, and was neatly tossed up into the air, well 
out of reach of Saunders's wrath, who, as he 
walked back to the tent, merely made the 

remark, "Well, I'm d d!" I remember 

that Martin Norman was playing in that match. 
It was the last time I saw him, for he died quite 

On that same Westerham ground, which 
was in those days on Farley Common, long 
before there was any thought of a ground in 
Squerryes Park, I was very much astonished at 
the end of some match or other, when I suppose 
I was about three- or four-and-twenty, by the 
well-known village grocer, one Sam Atkinson, 
coming up to me and saying: " I've backed you, 
Mr. Frank, for six bottles of champagne to throw 
farther than anybody else on the ground." 

" My good man, / can't throw. I never 
threw a measured throw since I was born. I 
don't believe I could chuck eighty yards to save 
my life." And this I honestly thought was the 
truth. I knew I could generally reach home 
from long leg, and that was all. 

" But you will throw for me, sir — won't 
you .? " said Sam. 

Of an Old 'Un 

" I'll do my level best with the greatest plea- 
sure in life, Atkinson," I replied ; " but I tell 
you honestly, I don't think you've got a dog's 
chance, and that your six bottles of ' fizz ' are 
as good as ' gone.' " To cut a long story short 
I won with a chuck of 103 yards, which of 
course is nothing like a really first-class throw, 
but it landed old Sam Atkinson his half-dozen 
of " fizz," which, thank God, I did not help to 
consume, for I imagine that even my cast-iron 
inside would have had something to say about the 
quality of Westerham champagne in those days. 

I played a great deal of cricket in the 'sixties 
for the "Cricket Company" at Upton Park, 
Essex, only six miles east of the Royal Exchange. 
It was a lovely ground in the park of Ham 
House, at one time the home of old Samuel 
Gurney, the Quaker, and head of the firm of 
Overend & Gurney, which came to such terrible 
grief in 1866. Here is a true yarn about old 
Sam Gurney, who was my great-uncle, his sister, 
Elizabeth Fry, having been my grandmother. 
Uncle Gurney usually carried half a handful of 
sovereigns in his waistcoat pocket in case he 
chanced upon any of his innumerable nephews 
or nieces, for he was the most generous of men. 
I met him one afternoon in the grounds of Ham 
House when I was a small child, and after a little 
kindly talk — for the dear old man loved children 


Sporting Recollections 

— yes ! even me — he said, " Well, good-bye, 
boy, and here's a sovereign for thee." To which 
I replied, " But, Uncle Gurney, you gave me a 
sovereign v\'hen I met you this morning." He 
looked me very straight in the face, and went 
on, " Did I, boy — did I ? I don't remember 
meeting thee at all this morning. Never mind, 
thee's an honest boy ! Keep 'em both, boy — 
keep 'em both." Here's another yarn about him, 
for the truth of which I had my mother's word. 
On leaving Lombard Street one afternoon to 
drive to Ham House, he found to his horror 
that his old and trusted coachman was inebri- 
ated. So he put the servant inside, mounted 
the box himself and drove east down Fenchurch 
Street, through the wilds of Whitechapel, Bow, 
and Stratford, and through his own lodge gates. 
There he pulled up, and having stirred up his 
old Jehu, who, no doubt, was much revived by 
an hour's repose inside the vast barouche, and 
having given him a severe but not unkind repri- 
mand, added : " And now, friend, thee may get 
back on to thy box, for I'll spare thee the dis- 
grace of being driven into thine own stable-yard 
by thy master." 

The wickets provided by the kindly hosts of 
the " Cricket Company " were perfect, and any 
one who failed to get runs on that ground could 
get them nowhere. I also well remember those 

Of an Old 'Un 

enormous great brown china double-handled 
tankards that the solemn old butler from Ham 
House used to bring out and hand round to the 
thirsty players. Ah ! they were, indeed, cheery 
days, and never have I played more wholly 
delightful cricket than for the " Cricket Com- 
pany," nor served under a more charming cap- 
tain than old Ted Buxton. In those days we 
had two annual matches — Gentlemen of Norfolk 
versus those of Essex — at Ham House and East 
Dereham respectively. They were productive 
of good cricket and great fun ; and in looking 
through the past such old friends as these come 
back to me : Charlie Absolom, Jimmie Round, 
Tommie de Grey (for not yet was he Lord 
Walsingham), Ted and Gurney Buxton, Bob 
Gurdon, W. F. Maitland, Fellow^es, Cotterill, 
"Cat " Davis, cum multis a/iis. Where are they 
all now ? Ah ! One morning we were playing 
this match at Ham House, and one of the 
crowd was desirous of improving his knowledge 
of entomological history, and to what better 
authority could he possibly appeal than to 
Tommie dc Grey ? We had been staying the 
previous night with Ted Buxton at Knighton. 
" Oh 1 say, Tommie," halloed the voice of the 
inquirer after knowledge from the deep field, 
" my tub this morning was chock-full of a lot 
of tiny little wriggling devils of things about a 


Sporting Recollections 

quarter of an inch long ! What on earth 
could they have been ? " " In your tub, old 
man ? God only knows," came the answer like 
a bullet across the ground. 

I played a great deal at that time for the dear 
old " Butterflies," and most capital cricket it was 
under the leadership of that excellent and charm- 
ing fellow, " Puffin " Guillemard. When I went 
away to Africa in 1875 I saw no more of old 
" Puffin," alas ! And shall not do so now until 
we meet in " that bourne." I wonder if they 
play cricket there, and whether we are allowed 
to take with us the cricket of our youth, or only 
that of our enfeebled, doddering old age. I 
wonder (Note by Publisher. Stop wonder- 
ing ! At any rate on that subject. It will do 
you no good and you'll get no forwarder.) Yet 
one more match did I play for the " Butterflies " 
somewhere about 1890, and, O Lord ! what 
a leather hunt we had at The Mote, near Maid- 
stone. All the first day we were out in the 
field. Charlie Leslie was confiding enough to 
put me on to bowl. The very first ball was 
hit hard by Tommie Atkins, and caught at the 
wicket. Unfortunately the umpire was scratch- 
ing his head, and his cap fell over his face, and 
he gave Mr. Atkins not out. After that Mr. 
Atkins, not unnaturally, after the manner of his 
kind, proceeded to get something over 250. 

Of an Old 'Un 

One doesn't soon forget a little mistake of that 
sort. The next morning there was a message 
from the umpire to say he couldn't come, that 
he was very ill, and had been obliged to take to 
his bed. I know there wasn't a " Butterfly " on 
the ground that wouldn't have been delighted to 
hear that, whether he dreaded the one as little 
as the other or not, he had taken to his grave. 
I also played a great deal for the " Incogniti," 
both under Gussy Hemming before he became 
such an ungodly swell as Governor of Jamaica, 
and other beautiful things, and under his brother 
before him. I can only, apart from the cricket, 
recollect one amusing little episode connected 
with the " Incogs." We were playing against 
the Gentlemen of Sussex at Brighton, and were 
all putting up at the " Old Ship." Rather late, 
after a very peaceful rubber — we played whist 
in those days — with poor Charlie Alcock, Gussy 
Hemming, and Thomas, I sought my couch. 
Now, it so happened that one of our team, who 
was young and inexperienced, nevertheless a 
good boy and a good cricketer, had taken his 
champagne at dinner, as Othello took other 
things, not wisely but too well. Imagine my 
dismay when I looked at my bed to see this 
child sound asleep in the middle of it. Wake 
him, and send him off to his own room, which, 
however, I did not know, seemed the right 


Sporting Recollections 

thing to do without a shadow of doubt. Yes ! 
but wake him ? I might as well have tried to 
wake the dead. Poor Kid, I hadn't the heart 
to put him on the floor or dispose of him by 
any other drastic method. So I just left him in 
peace and sallied forth with a candle in my 
hand, and a night-shirt over my arm, in the 
hope of discovering an unoccupied bed. I 
entered several rooms without adventure, and 
found them all occupied. At length, I very 
quietly opened the door of one, and my candle 
shed its light on the faces of a young man and a 
young woman. I have every reason to believe 
that their certificate of marriage was somewhere 
in the apartment ; anyhow, I most sincerely 
hope so, for the " Old Ship " was a most old- 
fashioned and law-abiding hostel. As I looked 
at the touching scene before me I am afraid I 
laughed. The man woke and sprang towards 
me, and in less than one-tenth of a second I had 
closed the door behind me, blown out my 
candle, and fled down the passage, and held 
myself flat in the doorway of a bedroom. In 
the semi-darkness I heard the man's steps and 
saw him go past, and then I, too, very quietly 
disappeared in the other direction and sought 
the smoking-room, where I very comfortably 
passed the remnant of the night, until it was 
time to go for a swim, 

Of an Old 'Un 

The " Incogs." used in those days to play 
a match every year at a well-known place in 
Hertfordshire called " The Node." There was 
an old fossil of an umpire who knew but little 
of cricket, but, because of his age and infirmities, 
was allowed great liberty by the skipper of " The 
Node " Club. Among other privileges, this 
old boy was allowed to smoke while standing 
umpire. This was, of course, quite wrong. 
On no other occasion in my life during a decent 
cricket match have I known an umpire permitted 
to smoke. Once, when I was bowling, the 
smoke from this old duffer's clay continually 
drifted across my face, and was very baulking. 
I asked the old cock very civilly to leave off. 
Not he ! He had always been allowed to smoke 
and was going on a-doing of it. I appealed 
to the skipper, and got the same reply with a 
little temper chucked in. So I asked old Gussy 
Hemming to put some one else on to bowl, and 
I never played at " The Node " again. 

I played a few matches for the M.C.C., and 
have most vivid recollections of many cheery 
days (and nights) at Woolwich when playing 
against the Gunners. I think the first match I 
played against them for the M.C.C. was in the 
quite early 'sixties. I remember old Billy Nichol- 
son was our skipper, and on the other side were 
many whose names in the realms of cricket 
L 145 

Sporting Recollections 

were household words. Taswell, Inge, Milman, 
" Daddy " Newbolt, poor " Struther," cum multis 
aim. I recollect old McCanlis was playing for 
the Gunners that match. A corporal he was in 
those days, and in these it always gives me 
infinite pleasure to meet him among his children 
of the " Nursery " at Tonbridge and talk of old 
days. I can recall yet another exceptionally 
cheery M.C.C. match, a few years later, against 
the Southern Division, when the ground was just 
inside the lines at Hilsea. Some of us were 
staying at an adjacent mansion, which, by the 
bye, has since been burnt to the ground. Our 
dear, good host was in the habit of conducting 
matutinal family prayers for — I presume — the 
sake of example to his establishment. I feel 
sure it was with no idea of edifying himself. 
One morning there was a scene so amusing that 
even now, some forty years afterwards, I laugh 
as I think of it. We, /. e. some of us, were 
assembled in the hall — and please don't forget 
that the night before we had been very late, 
with dancing, card-playing, billiards, and other 
innocent recreations. Our host was seated at 
a table with a very big Bible and other devotional 
works in front of him, and was turning the 
pages backwards and forwards with rather shaky 
fingers, when some twenty male and female 
servants sailed in and took their seats. The 

Of an Old 'Un 

pages of the good book still fluttered backwards 
and forwards and the fingers shook still more 
vigorously. At length the Bible was shut with 
a bang and the would-be reader exclaimed aloud: 
" No ! I'll be d— d if I can ! Go away, all of 
you, and lie down somewhere else." 

With reference to the M.C.C. the well-known 
and oft-quoted words of our old friend Borbonius 
are for the thousandth or perhaps ten-thousandth 
time appropriate : " Tempora mutantur, nos et 
mutamur in illis." 

How many years does it take now-a-days to 
get elected to the leading club ? Twenty ? 
Possibly five-and-twenty. I don't think my 
election in 1863 took a week, certainly not a 
month. Poor Tommy Hoblyn asked me one 
Sunday afternoon at his home at Rickling Green 
if I belonged to the M.C.C, and on my replying 
in the negative, suggested proposing me. I was 
more than willing, and very few days afterwards 
heard that I had been elected. Poor Tommy ! 
He was awfully delicate, and died very soon after- 
wards, when he was only thirty-one. I remember 
he was a great friend of poor Bob Fitzgerald's. 
I only played for him once at Ricking Green, 
and it was against the " Quidnuncs." We had 
a most frightful leather hunt, and as we were 
very short of bowling, I got what might some- 
what coarsely be exceedingly correctly described 
L 2 147 

Sporting Recollections 

as a most unconscionable bellyful. C. G. Lyttel- 
ton (the present Lord Cobham) and several giants 
of somewhat less pronounced cricketing stature 
were playing for the " Quids," and, odd as it 
may seem, through the intense good-nature of 
Tommy Hoblyn, one H. E. Bull, of Oxford 
Eleven and Harlequins and Gentlemen & Players 
renown, was allowed at the last moment to play 
for them, for they were a man short. It was a 
mistake ! So indeed we of Rickling Green 
ascertained to our cost a little later, when both 
he and C. G. Lyttelton proceeded to make well 
over a century apiece. 

I have played cricket in many very uncivilized 
places, and in many quarters of the globe — on 
the Pampas in South America, in the wilds 
of Kafirland, and in many and various places 
scattered all over South Africa. On the frontiers 
of Kafirland I licked an eleven of natives out of 
our police and militia into such decent shape 
that in matches got up with all the surrounding 
magistracies we never lost one. They were 
most excellent material to work upon, had eyes 
like hawks, and from their everlasting habit of 
throwing knobkerries, very soon became the 
most deadly shots with a cricket ball. Their 
use of English at cricket, for they knew not 
the meaning of a word, was at times most 
amusing. For instance, one Zenzili, whenever 

Of an Old 'Un 

he hit a very big smite, invariably called out 
" Hardt lines " as he legged it off to try and 
run six; and Daimani, when he was bowled, 
remarked " Good for you, damn ! " as he retired 
to the shade of the adjacent mimosa. It was 
good fun and interesting withal. I fear that 
since my departure from those distant scenes 
in the Transkei, cricket, among the natives 
at any rate, must have passed into oblivion. I 
cannot in any way whatsoever picture to myself 
a half-bred Dutch missionary taking the trouble 
to instil into the minds and muscles of his 
Kafir brethren a love for the intricacies of the 
game of cricket. His only possible chance of 
profit would be by selling a bat for a cow, a 
ball for a sheep, and possibly a set of stumps 
for a nanny-goat and her two kids. 

During the summers of '85, '86, '87, before 
I returned to South Africa again, I played 
cricket almost every day. I frequently met the 
Oxford " Authentics," and made friends with 
many of those dear and most charming boys. 
I can see them still, and still hear their voices 
ringing across the cricket field, the bar of the 
King's Arms at Westerham, the streets of the 
village, and even from the windows of the Town 
Hall, of which later. One " Spotty," who, in 
the regions of Fleet Street, at any rate, they now 
call "The Pieman," "Pebble" Stone, Britten 


Sporting Recollections 

Holmes, Guy Ewing, Acland Hood, I greet you 
all once more. I shake your hands and think 
of you as in those dear days, when you fairly 
took possession of a certain hostel, and won 
smiles from the fair Hebes who dwelt therein. 
Ah me ! and now you are all potent, grave and 
reverend signiors, anyhow exceedingly grave ; 
churchwardens, sitters on the bench and at 
county councils, with eyes severe and beards 
of formal cut, and, yea verily, I fear, of some 
of you at any rate, the " fair round belly " so 
rudely referred to by the bard may not prove 
inappropriately quoted. But a sigh escapes me 
as I think of that dear, bright, kind-hearted boy 
Harry " Tommer," gone from us years ago, but 
never forgotten. He was one of the very best 
and cheeriest souls I ever knew. I would he 
were here still. If he gets his deserts it is 
indeed a land of peace, of happiness, and beauty 
where he now dwells. 

" May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore. 
The parting word shall pass my lips no more." 

The rest of that poem is not applicable to poor 
dear Harry. The mighty Geoffrey Ware, too, 
who became a parson and went from us, not 
I suppose because he became a parson, but 
afterwards. You may not believe it, but I have 
had in my life a great many parsons for my 

Of an Old 'Un 

friends, and it has struck me somewhat forcibly 
that very often the best of them seem to be 
wanted, either for preaching or other purposes, 
at headquarters long before we have had enough 
of them in our mundane barracks. Poor old 
Geoffrey Ware ! If in the realms to which he 
has gone his preaching is one quarter as terrify- 
ing to evildoers as his bowling was on a fiery 
wicket in this world to ordinary mortals, he 
must now be dwelling among the saintliest of 
the elect. 

Although I was the skipper of the opposing 
side, the " Authentics " were so hospitable as to 
ask me to stay with them at the King's Arms at 
Westerham. Yes ! thank you, we had quite a 
merry night, though I fancy, and I rather hope, 
that it is now forgotten. So does Guy Ewing, 
I expect, as he is a shining light in these latter 
days in the same neighbourhood — churchwarden, 
county councillor, potent, grave and reverend 
signior, and all the rest of it ; and well, yes ! 
hasn't altogether done himself badly in the way 
of that " fair round. . . ." Pass along, please, 
pass along ! After dinner that night while we 
were looking about for something for our idle 
hands to do, as usual the devil — handy person 
under the circumstances — came along in the 
shape of a Punch-and-Judy show. The very 
clip ! We very soon had the two proprietors 


Sporting Recollections 

inside the hotel and regaled them with beer, 
much beer, and anon left them smiling, happy 
and contented. We then proceeded to annex 
their show, drum, Pan-pipes, and all that was 
theirs. With this little lot with beat, much 
beat, of drum, and blowing, rather discordant if 
my memory serves me, of the Pan-pipes, we 
paraded the town. " Spotty " headed the pro- 
cession with the big drum, and " Pebble " Stone 
tootled on the Pan-pipes, while to me was 
relegated the honour of shuffling along inside 
the Punch and Judy affair, and phew ! yes ! it 
was rather like that. Also I sweated some, for 
the thing was no light weight. The inhabitants 
seemed to like it and joined in the procession, 
and there was, I remember, a flag or two held 
aloft on sticks. Now Westerham was in those 
days a very quiet, inoffensive, and most wofuUy 
dull little dorp, and its inhabitants most excep- 
tionally law-abiding citizens. My beloved 
'earers, I tell you we stirred 'em up a bit that 
night. When we thought we had paraded the 
town sufficiently we somehow, /. e. a few of us, 
made our way up to the billiard-room in the 
Town Hall, and from that exalted position Guy 
Ewing addressed the crowd. Where were the 
police ? you ask. A silly question, if you'll 
pardon me. They were not present. But I am 
able to state that they were perfectly satisfied 

Of an Old 'Un 

with the existing situation. As far as I can 
remember Guy's speech ran somewhat on these 
lines, but I'm not very sure of the exact words : 
I know it savoured very strongly of Stratford-on- 
Avon — 

" Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me 
your ears : Although, as far as I can judge at the 
present most interesting crisis in the affairs of 
men and of Westerham, your mouths would be 
of more use to you. Poor, poor dumb mouths ! 
Fill 'em ! fill 'em ! and afterwards perhaps they 
won't be so dumb. But put no enemy in your 
mouth, certainly not an adder, even though his 
painted skin may content your eye more than an 
eel, which is a slimy brute and steals away the 
brains, and has a very ancient and fish-like smell. 
I lie not, my friends, believe me ! I can indeed 
at my need tell a lie about anything. But I 
cannot lie in a cowslip's bell. But I can suck 
anywhere, suck any mortal thing that's good, 
but where the bee sucks there suck I not. My 
friends, I suppose you'll soon be going home. 
Don't do it ! You know what happens to 
home-keeping youth. What ? You don't know. 
O monstrous doleful thing ! Then, alas ! all 
the voyage of your life is bound in shallows and 
in miseries. But our time, O ye dwellers in this 
fair vale, runs short, the iron tongue of midnight 


Sporting Recollections 

hath told, the glow-worm shows the matin to 
be near, and I hear the lark, the herald of the 
morn, on the misty top of Toys Hill. Seek, 
then your homes, in maiden meditation, fancy 
free ; and when you get there I sincerely trust 
that you'll find the prop that doth sustain your 
house intact. Good-night ! our revels now are 
ended, and we purpose melting not into thin air 
as you might think, but into the Arms of the 
King, up the street, where falls not hail or rain 
or any snow, but on occasions a little beer, 
which goes far to heal us of our grievous wounds, 
and where after life's fitful fever we hope to 
sleep pretty well, thank you. Farewell ! and if 
we do meet again — why, we shall smile. 
Rather ! " 

In those days we had some cricket in West 
Kent which went by the name of the " Old 'un's 
Week," and O Lord ! what fun it all was. I 
called unto me my relations and friends, saying 
unto them : " Rejoice with me, for my week is 
at hand. We will make merry and be glad, and 
go forth into the wild places of Kent, even with 
bat and ball, and a pot of paint that is red, and 
disport ourselves with the natives of those 
regions, who shall rejoice greatly." Forthwith 
there came to me nephews and sons, and great 
friends without number, and there was assembled 

Of an Old 'Un 

a goodly number of most excellent cricketers, 
who made the members of some West Kent 
cricket clubs sick nigh unto death in the 
hunting of the leather. Of my own family we 
were usually seven. But I don't think Words- 
worth's description of his seven could in any 
way have applied to us. However lightly we 
may have drawn our breath, I am convinced 
that the expression " a simple child " could in 
no earthly manner have been correctly applied 
to any one of us. A few of my nearest and 
dearest pals, including one Arthur Cornwallis, 
Hughie Spottiswoode, a handful of Leveson- 
Gowers, a Marchant or two, or perchance one 
Billy Rashleigh, and a certain " Bishop " Kemp 
or Jack le Fleming, made up the team. Anyhow 
it was hot enough. We played Westerham, 
Squerryes Park, Brasted Park, Wildernesse and 
Sevenoaks Vine, Squerryes being a two-day 
fixture. Jollier cricket I never played, and very 
good withal. A. M. and E. C. Streatfeild, Hugh 
" Spotty," Jack le Fleming, " Billy," and Arthur 
" Corny " at their best, were not a bad start in 
any team. An old Kent " pro," one William 
Draper, amused me when we were playing 
against the Vine, by telling me before play com- 
menced that he had a ball up his sleeve that 
would beat Mr. Edward {E. C. Streatfeild). He 
said nothing further to me about that ball that 


sporting Recollections 

was concealed in his sleeve. Ned's score that day 
was 128 not out, obtained in under an hour. 

We all, as a rule, put up part of the time at the 
King's Arms, at Westerham, and the remainder 
at the Crown at Sevenoaks. A new landlord 
who knew not Joseph, or even his brethren, to 
say nothing of his cricket team, had come to 
Westerham and appeared to be very nervous. 
Arthur Cornwallis frightened him horribly, I 
remember. I fancy that landlord viewed our 
departure with great thankfulness. At the 
Crown at Sevenoaks, on the other hand, they 
truly loved us, and nothing could exceed the 
kindness with which they treated us. When 
we came away the manageress assured us that we 
had made no noise whatever, and that she wished 
we were going to stay six months. I heard, by 
the bye, afterwards, that there had been a poor 
little parson next the room where slept (.?) 
Arthur Corny and one " Whack," otherwise 
Cyril Streatfeild. That poor little parson's 
views on the subject of noise were wholly dif- 
ferent from those of the beaming lady in the bar 

Much about the same time I had the great 
honour of leading ten of my family to victory 
on the cricket field. We were by no means a 
bad team. We played against Colonel Warde's 
Eleven at Squerryes, and afterwards sat down to 

f pi^^ ^ 

Of an Old 'Un 

dinner at my old home, Chart's Edge, a party of 
seventeen, all Streatfeilds. It was verily a most 
joyful gathering of our clan. I gravely fear 
it would puzzle me now-a-days to get up an 
eleven of my family that could escape the most 
ignominious defeat from a fifth-class dame's 
school. My own generation is dead. If it isn't, 
it ought to be for any use it is where eye, hand 
and foot should work together for good. Then 
the next generation is occupied, the best of 
them with inspection of schools, and helping in 
the leading of British youth into the paths of 
industry, to play in all things with a straight 
bat, and never to throw a half-volley to the 
wicket-keeper. Others could, I honestly believe, 
play as well as ever. But they won't, and talk 
rot about old age, rheumatism, and other in- 
creasing infirmities. And the young men and 
schoolboys don't seem to me to care a bit about 
cricket, and I never see our name in print in 
any matches or hear of them in any school or 
college eleven. 

In the north-west corner of Berkshire stands 
a charming country home, where in one cricket 
season I think I bore my part in five cricket 
weeks. One of my sons, at the conclusion of 
the last, tendered his thanks to the Giver of all 
good things, for he affirmed that had there been 
one more my constitution must inevitably have 


0/ f 

Sporting Recollections 

broken down, and he would be left a lone and 
sorrowing orphan. Dear delighful Pusey ! Can 
I ever forget those cheery days and most blissful 
and alluring nights ? Surely the fun, the charm 
and the chafF were unending. Dear lovely 
chatelaine of those enchanting halls, let me once 
more kiss your hand, and tender you my warmest 
thanks for all those bewitching hours passed 
beneath your sweet kindly roof-tree. In imagin- 
ation I can still hear your thrilling voice that 
came so softly to us in the hush that followed, 
perchance a dance to the strains of the Blue 
Danube, or even a game of blind-man's bulF — 

" Lady, let me believe I love you purely 

As the saints love on high ; 
Let me believe in this one love so surely 

That it can never die. 
Oh, let me lay aside my sins and weeping, 

My manhood's doubt and pain ; 
And on thy shoulder let me fall a-sleeping 

And never wake again." 

Yes ! It was soothing indeed, and I was 
never tired of listening to the enthralling echoes 
that you were always so charmingly ready to 
waken for me. Yes ! indeed, dear Pusey was a 
place to be remembered. Never shall I look 
upon its like again. From roof to cellar always 
filled with the most perfectly charming young 
people, and the only time that was not alive 
with pleasure was when we had perforce to go 

Of an Old 'Un 

to bed for just a short time before the encroach- 
ing brooms of Abigail and her satelHtes. Among 
the young people I do not, of course, include my- 
self. I was indeed the one and only Methuselah 
of the party, and they most sweetly and kindly 
put up with me. Ah me ! what a note of sad- 
ness rings through the melody as these memories 
of the past come back to me, and tears, idle 
tears, come welling up unbidden to the eyes in 
thinking of the days that are no more. 

I never played any first-class cricket, for the 
most obvious of all reasons. I don't fancy it 
would have appealed to me. I played several 
times for the Gentlemen of Kent, and it struck 
me as a solemn business, and not at all according 
to my ideas of cheerful cricket. I was once 
playing for the Gentlemen of Kent against the 
Gentlemen of Sussex at Brighton. It was during 
the same week that during the Kent and Sussex 
match, 1865 or '6, I should think, some 
scoundrel, who I suppose had a little bet on 
hand, got at the wicket with a hammer. The 
wicket was, however, changed, and the nefarious 
machinations of the evil-doer rendered abortive. 
After dinner on the first day of our match, when 
the clock approached eleven or thereabouts, our 
skipper suggested bed. It was no uncertain sug- 
gestion either. Bed at eleven did not in those 
days appeal to me, and when I stated that on 


Sporting Recollections 

the contrary I was going out with a little pot 
of red paint in my hand to see the town of 
Brighton, and should be back to breakfast, or at 
any rate in time to play next day, the looks that 
greeted me were anything but alluring. 

I have known most intimately hundreds of 
first-class cricketers, and I am perfectly certain 
that they do not derive anything like the 
pleasure from their cricket that we poor duffers 
do from ours. Besides all this, in looking around 
me in the past I have noticed that some of the 
finest players in England have given up playing 
in first-class cricket, and have yet continued to 
play other cricket three or four, or even six days 
a week. I wonder how many times my own 
nephew, E. C. Streatfeild, played for Surrey, in 
which county he was most unhappily and mis- 
takenly born, poor boy ! Not very many, I 
trow ; though of this fact I am certain, that had 
he been eligible to play for his own county, 
Kent, and in the consulship of Lord Harris^ he 
would have done it whenever he could. So 
would I most gladly if I had been young enough 
and good enough. But that again is another 

F. H. Norman in seven years, '58-64, only 
played for the county ten times, and he was 
one of the best cricketers in England. Alfred 
Lubbock, another magnificent player, only ap- 

Of an Old 'Un 

peared for Kent on four occasions. Edgar, his 
brother, only once, and that was against M.C.C. 
Now why was this ? I know well ! At one 
time I am perfectly certain there were eleven 
amateurs in the county of Kent who very seldom 
played for the county at all, who could simply 
have knocked the existing eleven into a cocked 
hat. In due course came along Lord Harris, 
and all went well, and following him other 
brave and influential knights of the willow, who 
have made Kent cricket a very different affair 
from what it used to be when I first knew it. 

A somewhat peculiar thing happened one day 
on Southborough Common in 1866. I was 
playing for Gentlemen of Kent against (I think) 
an eleven of Tunbridge Wells and district. 
Harry Fryer was umpire, and my mate at the 
other end sent me back, and I was — as I thought 
— run out by two or three yards, and went away 
without asking. When I got near the tent, 
G, M. Kelson ran out and met me, and said, 
" Cut away back and get in your ground, he 
knocked the bails off before he got the ball." I 
went back and stood in my ground, and on being 
asked what I'd come back for, replied that I had 
not been given out. Fryer was appealed to and 
said that I had not been run out, but that I was 
out now for leaving my ground. This decision, 
in solemn conclave afterwards, was held to be 
M 161 

sporting Recollections 

rotten. We were all staying at an hotel in the 
Pantiles. I think it was called the Sussex County 
Hotel. G. M. Kelson, Edward Hardinge and I 
had a rubber of whist with a dummy after dinner, 
and I remember I never had such a run of good 
cards in my life, and that I scooped up many 
shekels. My opponents tried to get some of 
them back over billiards after breakfast in the 
morning, but that only made matters worse — 
for them. Then I got hold of a newspaper, and 
the first thing that caught my eye in enormous 
letters was " Failure of Overend & Gurney." 
Now it happened that two years before, when 
I had married and settled down — yes ! I said 
" settled down " — my cousin Sam Gurney, son 
of the old Quaker, had let me have at an ex- 
ceedingly moderate rent a very pretty little 
furnished house on the banks of the river 
Wandle, with about a mile of fishing, and a very 
nice little shoot. " Twixt thee and me," he said, 
" is no need of any lease or agreement." Now 
I was done, done brown. For in due course all 
the Gurney property was sold, and we had to 
turn out and seek other quarters. It was indeed 
a sell. That was our first turn-out from home. 
My good Lord ! but we have had a good many 
and very varied ones in many outlandish places 
of the earth since those days. 



Back to South Africa again — Bechuanaland — Evil times, and 
no residence of any sort — Corn wallis Harris's picture of the 
high-road to Kuruman — Red tape, plenty of it— A medical 
examination, and an old fossil says I am not sound. Lor ! 
— A little game of golf — A candid opinion of a good many 
Government officials whose only occupation at that time 
consisted in licking the boots of that great and good 
man, Cecil Rhodes — A description of a frontier officer as 
he should not be — Keeping up the dignity of Government 
out of the taxpayers' pocket — Government servants in 
Downing Street and abroad !— Methods of justice and 
decency in Bechuanaland- — A murder case of a very brutal 
description, murderer let off by the all-pervading red tape — 
Bechuanaland Border Police a disgrace to civilization, 
officers worse than the troopers — Injustice to good men in 
the past, Byng, Battle Frere, Chinese Gordon, Butler, 
Archer Shee, James Outram, Hammersley and dozens of 
others — A little geology to finish up with — The Kuruman 
caves — A terrified land surveyor — The story of the puff- 
adder, by the kind permission of Mr. Theodore A. Cook, the 
editor of The Field. 

Towards the end of the summer of the Jubilee 
year, a summer assuredly to be marked by all 
loyal, true-hearted Englishmen in red letters, 
I took my departure again- to South Africa. I 
had been appointed by the Colonial Office as 
Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate of 
an ungodly hole in the wilds of Bechuanaland 
called Kuruman. I was well aware that this 
appointment meant complete exile — exile from 
M 2 163 

sporting Recollections 

home, from friends, from all the decencies of 
life and from all congenial companionship. But 
I fondly imagined that as I was about to serve 
the Imperial Government I should assuredly be 
treated with some sort of consideration, and 
that at any rate some slight degree of thought 
might possibly be bestowed towards rendering 
the lot of the wretched expatriated official as 
little unendurable as, under the circumstances, 
was possible. I was indeed bitterly, hopelessly 
wrong. I was chucked down into this God- 
forsaken, and at the same time missionary-ridden 
(the terms are by no means incongruous) hole 
of a place like a sea-damaged bale of goods, and 
there left to rot ; to live or die, to be well or ill, 
to smile or weep as the gods might decree, and, 
as I could most plainly observe, there was not a 
single official in the country, or any other for 
that matter, who cared one solitary iota about 
the matter. But, as I think I have said before, 
I agree to the uttermost with the words on the 
old sundial, " Horas non numero nisi serenas." 
I will therefore, as far as possible, try to thrust 
on one side records of the deep and dirty waters 
through which I had to struggle during my 
sojourn in Bechuanaland, and only put before 
my readers matters which may perchance interest, 
and here and there I hope may possibly amuse them. 
I have recorded elsewhere how, about ten 

Of an Old 'Un 

years before the time of which I am now writ- 
ing, I was sent as a pioneer Resident Magistrate 
to the wilds of Kafirland to take up my abode, 
together with my wife and a son, at a place 
on the hillside where there was no dwelling of 
any sort — no ! not so much as one stone upon 
another. Now once more I was dispatched 
into the wilderness, the avaiit courrier of official 
civilization, the first Government officer to take 
up his abode in the midst of the various tribes 
that inhabited the desert country around Kuru- 
man. True ! there were indeed at the place 
when I got there several most excellent stone 
buildings, erected at very great expense by the 
headquarters of the particular missionary society 
that held sway at Kuruman. These most capital 
habitations, the home of the two dissenting par- 
sons that were so comfortably housed therein, 
left nothing to be desired, except, perhaps, from 
other folk's point of view, a change of inmate. 
Many and many a time have I cast a longing 
eye towards those comfortable homes when I 
possessed not even a room in which to lay my 
head, and had only a tumble-down, leaking, flea- 
infested old shed for my daily — and still worse, 
nightly — abode. The missionaries indeed, when 
I arrived at my destination, were so fortunate as 
to possess yet another comfortable home that was 
empty and uninhabited. It was suggested that 


sporting Recollections 

this house should be let, for a consideration, to 
be left to their clerical wishes, to the homeless 
Civil Commissioner. Not one bit of it ! They 
would not hear of it for a moment ! Nice, kind, 
M aster-giving people. That house remained 
empty and unused during the whole of the time 
that I dwelt at Kuruman. I heard afterwards 
that it was at once let to my successor by the 
missionaries on his arrival. He, however, was a 
Dutchman and a dissenter. I know of a motto 
carved in the stonework over a certain window, 
which runs, " Majores vestros et posteros cogi- 
tate." Were I the architect to put the finishing 
touches to a building destined in the future to be 
the abode of one or more ordinary missionaries, 
such as, with few exceptions, indeed, I have 
found them, deeply, indelibly engraved above 
the doorway should appear two very well-known 
lines. The first should read, " All hope abandon, 
ye who enter here " ; the second, a little shorter 
but much to the point, " Nothing for nothing, 
and damned little for sixpence." 

Among the numerous Kafir tribes that I have 
sojourned with, I have been favoured with many 
and varied nicknames. One of these was " Vulin- 
dhlela," which means " Clear the road." I had 
been at Kuruman but a very short time indeed 
when I thought that nickname most appropriate. 

Of an Old 'Un 

In Cornwallis Harris' excellent book, 77/? Wild 
Sports of Southern Africa, one finds opposite page 32 
a picture entitled " The High-road to Kuruman." 
This picture is accuracy itself. The high-road 
consists of just the wheel-marks of an ox-wagon 
which has passed, and which one can still see 
dimly in the distance. Following the wagon 
up is a man in the foreground, red nightcap on 
head, pipe in mouth, kettle in hand, to secure 
from which its remnant dregs of coffee he has no 
doubt remained behind his comrades. Not far 
in front of him lies a sick ox left to die, and very 
soon to be surrounded by a ravening mob of vul- 
tures waiting for the end, or, to be quite true to 
nature, until the end is very near. All around, 
as far as the eye can see, is desert, only desert, 
with just a stunted bush here and there and an 
ant-heap to complete the dreary spectacle. It is 
desert indeed. And into such surroundings as 
these was my lot cast for the time being. When 
I had existed at Kuruman about a year I was one 
morning interrogated by a horrible little man 
from the mission station wearing a dirty white 
tie and a collar that had apparently never visited 
a blanchisseiise, and who spoke with an accent 
that savoured strongly of the Glasgow railway 
goods yard, as to when Mistress {sic) Streatfeild 
would be coming out to join me. My answer 
was abrupt and to the point : "To this beastly 
* 167 

sporting Recollections 

hole ? I would sooner see Mistress Streatfeild 
(as you see fit to call her) in hell than in Kuru- 
man. Hell may possibly be bearable. I am 
perfectly certain that Kuruman isn't." 

O Lord ! how I hate red tape. It has inter- 
fered with my enjoyment in life times without 
end. Then I am only too well aware of un- 
numbered old fogies who sucked in that bugbear. 
Government office routine, with their mother's 
milk, whose tiny limbs had been bound round 
and round with coils of red tape, and whose 
minds had been everlastingly enmeshed with 
that " monster custom that all sense doth eat." 
I thank my God that I am not, and never 
have been, one of these most offensive persons. 
In the ordinary offices of bankers, merchants, 
brokers, printers, publishers and so forth, where 
the object is to make money and not to waste it^ 
red tape is scarcely known and common sense 
takes its place. 

Before I started on my way to Bechuanaland a 
skein of the horrible material enmeshed me. In 
the meantime I should greatly like to know 
the value of the stationery alone that is unfairly 
and downrightly wasted in Government offices, 
year after year, without the slighest check being 
placed on such a nefarious process. I was 
solemnly informed in most official language, on 
a most unnecessarily large surface of official 

Of an Old 'Un 

letter-paper, with the insignia of the Colonial 
Office emblazoned upon it, that before proceed- 
ing to South Africa to assume my duties it would 
be necessary for me to present myself to some 
old fossil of a doctor chosen by them and get a 
certificate that I was sound wind and limb and 
fit for service at the Cape of Good Hope. Good 
God ! And only two years before I had re- 
turned from the said Cape of Good Hope after 
ten years' service there, during which I had seen 
my way through three Kafir wars and had 
endured endless hardships of no ordinary kind 
by flood and field, and had never once been on 
the sick list or left a day's work unattended to. 
Does not that strike you as a somewhat tasty 
morsel of red tape ? Isn't there an old proverb 
lying about somewhere that tells us that the man 
who pays the piper should be the one to call the 
tune. In my case it was the red tape of the 
Colonial Office that called the tune, but never- 
theless the two guineas that went into old 
Paracelsus' clutches came out of my waistcoat 
pocket. Anon, the old dear proceeded to ex- 
amine me. He puffed and fussed and grunted, 
he punched me about and sounded me all over 
my body. It certainly didn't hurt me and I only 
hope it amused him. Then there ensued the 
following conversation with old iEsculapius, who 
had assumed an air of very great importance — 


Sporting Recollections 

" I am sorry to say, Mr. Streatfeild, I don't 
think I am justified in passing you." 

" Why not ? " I asked, for I flattered myself I 
was just about as fit and strong as any mortal of 
my age could possibly be. 

" I regret that I find your heart very seriously 
affected," was the old cock's reply. At this I 
laughed. Yes ! Laughed a good deal. Possibly 
I was very ignorant, but I felt certain such a 
thing was utterly out of the question. 

" You are pleased to be amused, sir," went on 
the old dear. " May I venture to ask why ? " 

" For this reason, sir," I replied. " I shot 
almost every day through last shooting season, 
walked to and from the various rendezvous, 
distances of not unfrequently twenty miles, on 
almost every occasion. I have played a cricket 
match very nearly every day through this 
summer. I can eat a hearty breakfast, drink a 
quart of stout and then walk off twenty miles as 
hard as I can lick any morning you like and 
never turn a hair. That is why I laugh, and I 
think I am justified." 

The doctor snuffled and fussed a bit, and I 
dare say thought I was an advanced liar. But 
he gave me my pass all right, and if he is still 
on this side the river perhaps he will be glad to 
hear that to-day, twenty-five years after he said 
my heart was not trustworthy, it is still going 

Of an Old 'Un 

strong, and that I am looking forward to testing 
it to the utmost during the shooting season that 
is just started. I have taken the trouble to look 
up in one of the back numbers of The Field an 
account of something I did eight years after this 
worthy doctor's examination, which I think goes 
far to prove that medical science, especially as 
represented in the British Civil Service, is not 
altogether infallible, and possibly not unbound 
by the horrible entangling meshes of the afore- 
said red tape. Yes ! there was a little bet or 
two about it. 

" It may interest your readers to have some 
account of a tour de force accomplished by Mr. 
Frank N. Streatfeild, a member of the Limpsfield 
Chart Golf Club over the club links on June 
28th. This gentleman undertook to play sixteen 
nine-hole rounds (144 holes) in one day, playing 
each hole out, and in addition to walk to and 
from the links, a distance of four miles each 
way. Mr. Streatfeild, moreover, set himself the 
task of doing the 144 holes in 720 strokes (an 
average of five a hole), and, as will be seen from 
the subjoined return, he very nearly accomplished 
the feat. Indeed had it not been for the rough 
and fiery state of the greens consequent on the 
long drought, and the abnormally bad lies that 
his ball only too often found on the course, the 
specified number of strokes would have been 


Sporting Recollections 

more than amply sufficient. Three balls lost (a 
loss of six strokes) and some eight or nine lifts 
out of unplayable places added very materially 
to the score. Starting from home at 2.30 a.m., 
Mr. Streatfeild began to play about 3.30. The 
actual time occupied in play was fourteen and 
a half hours, and the player was at home again 
soon after nine o'clock p.m. It should be 
remembered that Mr. Streatfeild, whose name 
has long been known amongst the big game 
in South Africa, on English cricket-fields, and 
on other fields where the driven partridge skims 
all too confidently over the fence, has only quite 
lately taken to golf, and has already seen more 
than half a century of vigorous life. Such is 
the pereimis majoriim virtus. Mr. Streatfeild was 
accompanied throughout by his son, Mr. Cyril 
Streatfeild. The rounds were as follows : 50, 
45, 42, 44, 44, 42, 52, 42, 44, 47, 47, 47, 46, 
48, 42, 43—725- 

(Signed) " F. W. Parsons, 
''Hon. Sec. Limpsjield Chart Golf Club:' 

I may add that I was not the least tired, and 
ate an unlimited supply of cold roast beef, and 
drank a bottle of champagne for supper, and 
was off again early next morning and played 
a cricket match at Chislehurst, Sevenoaks Vine 
against West Kent. So much for the poor 

Of an Old 'Un 

heart that was reported not good enough for 
service at the Cape. And Brutus is an honour- 
able man — I mean the doctor. 

Now those august authorities of the Colonial 
Office and elsewhere in Government departments, 
held in bondage by the encircUng trammels of the 
aforesaid red tape, are not in the smallest degree 
inclined to hurry themselves over any of their 
ponderous machinations. We all know this to 
our cost, and also that any business establishment 
conducted on the Hues of any Government office 
would promptly rush straight to ruin. It there- 
fore did not at all astonish me, as soon as ever I 
had accepted the appointment of Civil Commis- 
sioner at Kuruman, for I too have dwelt in 
Arcadia, to ascertain that there was a most 
tremendous hurry for me to take my departure, 
although it had taken months for the Solomons 
to find out that such an appointment was desir- 
able, and that I must be prepared to go out by 
the next mail. Oh yes ! I knew the beggars 
pretty well, and during the exceedingly brief 
interviews, brief as I could make them, that I had 
to undergo with one or two of the Colonial Office 
clerks, I was astounded — yes ! even I who knew 
the animal — was astounded at the supreme ignor- 
ance displayed as to the affiiirs of South Africa, 
Those among us who have read the Life of 
General Butler have learnt a good deal more 


sporting Recollections 

about the wilful, wicked ignorance displayed in 
Government offices since the days of which I 

So by the next mail I hied me away. On 
my arrival at Cape Town, before proceeding 
north I had an interview with the Governor's 
representative, and much good that did me. It 
was the same man who later on, together with 
that great and good and straight (Oh, very!) 
history maker, Cecil Rhodes, helped to engineer 
the Jameson Raid behind the Governor's back. 
Dear me ! how I did hate that man. He had 
the face of a rattlesnake, but no rattle in his 

There being a great hurry for me to take up 
my residence at Kuruman, as I was informed by 
the Colonial Office authorities in London, at 
Cape Town I was ordered to go some hundred 
miles or more out of my way to a place called 
Vryburg, to report myself to the Administrator 
of the whole of Bechuanaland. I got as far as 
Kimberley by train, a weary journey, and from 
there to Vryburg, a very much wearier one, by 
mail cart. During the whole of that desolate 
solitary drive there was only one incident that 
brought a smile to my face. The mail cart 
arrived about six o'clock one morning at a place 
called Taungs, where resided a future brother 
magistrate of mine. He came out and greeted 

Of an Old 'Un 

me kindly, took me into his house and offered 
me refreshment. Now what do you think that 
hospitable soul suggested my drinking at six a.m. 
after a very long and dusty desert drive ? Gin 
and bitters ! Now I have drunk Cana cocktails 
with Gauchos in Argentine pulperias, I have 
absorbed a very small quantity of Cape smoke 
in wayside hostels, and have sampled " corpse- 
revivers " in a Bowery sparring crib, to say 
nothing of inferior and sweet champagne in 
some improper places in New York, so I feel 
sure that I may be considered very catholic in 
my tastes. But gin and bitters, utterly filthy at 
any time, at six o'clock in the morning, would 
surely to any God-fearing traveller be wholly 

On arrival at Vryburg I tried to report myself 
to my chief at about noon, and ascertained that 
he was still in bed though not ill. That made 
me open my eyes. I was later in the day asked 
to dinner, and went. I then was informed that 
there was no hurry in the world for me to 
take up my appointment at Kuruman, quite the 
contrary. I fancy his Honour the Administrator 
was really rather puzzled to know what to do 
with me. However, he decreed in his great 
mind that he and his two secretaries required a 
little relaxation, and so they would in about a 
week come to Kuruman with me, introduce me 


SportinfT Recollections 

to the missionaries and the surrounding desert, 
and there leave me to my fate. 

I had a very miserable week at Vryburg, w^ith 
nothing to do and very little to read. I made 
the acquaintance of my Chief, and came to the 
conclusion that never in my life before had I 
seen such a glaring instance of a round (very 
round indeed) peg in a square hole. Now my 
idea of what a frontier head official ought to be 
is represented by such men as John Nicholson, 
Hodson of Hodson's Horse, Redvers BuUer 
cetat. 45, Evelyn Wood at the same time, and 
scores of others that I have known and read of ; 
strong both mentally and physically, upright, 
honourable men, who for no earthly considera- 
tion would touch pitch, not even for the wealth 
of Kimberley and Johannesburg rolled together ; 
hard as nails and ready at a moment's notice to 
nip on a horse and ride off sixty or even eighty 
miles to suppress a native rising or smother a 
frontier foray in its birth. Those are the sort 
of men that I delight to honour and to serve 
faithfully and to the best of my ability. 

Now let me put my new master, the Adminis- 
trator of Bechuanaland — a country larger than 
the United Kingdom— before you. He was no 
doubt a very able lawyer and had done excellent 
work as a judge in Cape Colony. A worse 
training for a frontier Administrator, where 

Of an Old 'Un 

common sense, accurate observation, and a very 
acute knowledge of human nature are of infinitely 
greater importance than a knowledge of law, I 
cannot conceive. The suaviter in modo was his, 
but the. fortiter in re was most lamentably lacking. 
He never mounted a horse. Simply he could 
not. He was very short, enormously fat, and 
carried on his fat face long brown whiskers. 
They used to be called Piccadilly weepers. Had 
he ever got outside a gee (I cannot imagine such 
a thing possible), and happened to fall off, he 
would inevitably have emulated the final cata- 
strophe of one J. Iscariot. 

I once did know of such a horrible ending to 
a man's life. I had often seen him. His name 
was Kotze, and he was stupendously obese. 
One night when travelling in a mail cart through 
the Long Kloof north of the Outeniqua Moun- 
tains he fell out. I don't quite see how to write 
it gracefully, but, not to put too fine a point on 
it, he burst, and died very few hours later. My 
good Administrator, had he ever dared to get on 
a horse and taken a toss, would most assuredly 
have done the same. As a matter of fact, 
however, I believe he died in the odour of 
sanctity in his own bed. As he spent about 
eighteen hours out of every twenty-four in that 
same, according to my arithmetic and very 
meagre knowledge of betting affairs, the market 
N 177 

sporting Recollections 

odds that he would do so are three to one. He 
was by far the laziest Government official I ever 
came across in all my wanderings. Indeed he 
was the only really indolent officer I ever knew. 

Frontier officials, be their faults what they 
may, are not often lazy. 1 have no remem- 
brance, with that one most alarming exception, 
of ever having any really great difficulty in 
getting a man started. Had the authorities seen 
fit to let me find my own way from Vryburg 
to Kuruman, after the Administrator had seen, 
or thought he had seen, what manner of man I 
was, it would have cost the Government, at the 
outside, a couple of sovereigns for the hiring of 
a horse to carry me the two days' easy ride. 
The little holiday (it was nothing else, for not 
one of us did a stitch of work the whole time) 
of the Chief and his staff cost fully ^400. 

About noon one day, for we couldn't ever get 
the old buster ready for a start before that hour, 
we got under weigh ; the Chief and I in the 
most luxurious Cape cart I ever sat in, behind 
four very good horses. Our impedimenta, con- 
sisting of a big mess marquee, about a dozen 
ordinary bell-tents and cooking paraphernalia, 
was conveyed in bullock carts. I can tell you 
when the Administrator travelled there wasn't 
going to be the slightest discomfort or lack of 
any description in the commissariat department 

Of an Old 'Un 

— not one bit of it ! He was a greedy old pig, 
and gave a great deal of consideration to the 
manner in which he filled his most capacious 
tummy. The two secretaries rode after us, and, 
moreover, we were accompanied by a detach- 
ment and captain of the Bechuanaland Border 
Police. It was, indeed, a show. I must confess 
I didn't understand it at all, and thought it all 
absolute rot and utter waste of the inoffensive 
taxpayers' money. If the Chief imagined it 
would in any way impress me, he was indeed 
a long way from the truth. Perchance he 
thought he was keeping up the dignity of the 
Government. I hate such infernal nonsense ! 
If a Government thinks it advisable to waste 
several hundred pounds in order to induct a 
fresh twopenny-halfpenny official into his distant 
dog-hole of a place, in my opinion that Govern- 
ment is in sore need of advice as to the spending 
of the said hundreds, in putting some sort of a 
roof over the poor twopenny-halfpenny official's 
head, and in ensuring the poor beast some very 
slight degree of comfort, and, at any rate, some 
meagre shelter from the storm rather than in 
wasting them over some paltry and unneeded 

On our arrival at Kuruman the Administrator 
and his attendant satellites, including myself and 
my new clerk, lately trooper in the B.B.P., 

N2 179 

Sporting Recollections 

a nice blue-eyed boy of two- or thiee-and- 
twenty, whose father I had known as representing 
the Colonial Commissariat Department in the 
Gcaleka-Gaika war of 1877—8, made our camp 
in a somewhat sheltered valley a mile or more 
away from the mission station. The Adminis- 
trator was fox enough for that. There we spent 
a few days doing — well, precisely nothing ; 
there was nothing to do. Yes ! we did have 
a meeting at the mission station and made a few 
speeches, all of which, including my own, were 
composed of most unadulterated rot. I was 
introduced to a few traders and missionaries, 
and during the meal that was most hospitably 
provided for us by — I believe — the London Mis- 
sionary Society, also to some teetotal beverage 
that was called " Kuruman Wine." My Lord ! 
I once in the heat of the moment, years before, 
drank some stuff called "Zoedone." Luckily 
it was out of doors and far away from civiliza- 
tion. It made me most abominably sick. Why 
not ? This " Kuruman Wine " stuff would have 
killed me stone dead at a mile. I took but one 
tiny sip. It was enough ! What on earth the 
muck was made of, God alone knows. It tasted 
like corked raspberry vinegar bottled off" into an 
old boot. Thank you ! 

When we were still in our camp I had occa- 
sion to interview my Chief one morning, and 

Of an Old 'Un 

sought him in his tent. He had a bed on a 
real iron bedstead, and the bed had sheets on it. 
No ! I am not lying ! Honest Injun ! Honour 
bright ! Now, I have roughed it from Dan 
even to Beersheba under every imaginable cir- 
cumstance, and have lain on the lap of Mother 
Earth in all companies, from general officers 
with much open pastry on their bosoms to dead 
niggers with nothing but the skin God gave 
them, but never, in the whole course of my life, 
either before or since, have I seen sheets to 
sleep in when camping out on the veldt. 

The only permanent quarters at Kuruman 
that could be found for my poor clerk and 
myself were as paying guests with a broken- 
down, bankrupt trader who had married a servant 
from some mission station. They had a child 
about four years old. The woman was ever- 
lastingly pouring into my ears the fact that she 
was a lady. I was glad she told me ; I might 
otherwise have missed it. Our meals were truly 
awful. Not only were they almost uneatable 
and absolutely beastly, but still worse, the table- 
cloth and crockery were never clean. To put the 
finishing touches on to the entertainment, the 
poor little child, for whom I was truly sorry — 
although I not infrequently wished it was dead — 
used to sit with us at table, and its ill-clad, awful 
mother systematically gave it bones to suck as 


sporting Recollections 

a solace for its tears, for the poor little beast was 
always crying. These tear-bedewed bony rem- 
nants were shed about the table during the 
meal, and didn't in any degree serve to stimulate 
our anything but fierce appetites. Although 
we were always more than half starved, we could 
scarcely touch our food amid such beastly and 
disgusting surroundings. I complained to the 
master of the establishment, and put the case 
before him. He wrung his hands, and even 
went so far as to shed a tear or two. He was 
indeed a weak vessel. He pleaded guilty to 
every indictment ; said he was truly sorry, 
acknowledged he was starved himself, but could 
do nothing — literally he dared not. So, of 
course, I could only laugh, pat him on the back 
and tell him to cheer up. Poor beggar ! I was 
indeed honestly sorry for him. With that awful 
woman he hadn't the very ghost of a chance ; 
she could have licked a dozen of him. 

One morning the poor man departed in some- 
body's bullock wagon for a few days. When 
I went to bed that night I thought my couch 
felt uncommonly bony. On closer inspection I 
ascertained that between me and the steel slats 
was just one blanket, and that the mattress had 
been abstracted. It would have served that 
woman of wrath right had I gone straight at 
her and pulled her out of bed by the hind leg 

Of an Old 'Un 

with an ox-reim and abstracted her mattress. 
As it was, I only laughed at the consummate 
impudence of the woman, and possessed my soul 
in patience until the morning. She had, as I 
thought, taken the thing to make a bed for her 
wretched husband in his wagon. For once 
that awful virago of a creature got a bit of her 
own back. I owed her a good deal, in many 
ways, and I rather fancy I paid in full. Then 
I wrote her a cheque for our keep up to date — 
and it must not be forgotten that we were paying 
for our bed and board considerably more than 
ten times their value — shook the dust from our 
feet and departed. 

Not far away was an unused ruined shed on 
the mission-station land, doorless and windowless, 
that had been a storehouse in the past, and, 
permission obtained, into this shanty we put 
our kits and took up our quarters. It was by 
no means water-tight, but the roof at one end 
kept out rain. The floor was composed of dust 
inches deep. Now this description of our new 
home doesn't sound tempting. I tell you we 
were more delighted to get into it, and away 
from the voice of that awful she-cat, the filth 
and squalor of her beastly home and her dirty 
bone-sucking baby, than I have any words to 
describe. Anyhow we were not starved, and a 
feeling of cleanliness returned to us, for we both 


Sporting Recollections 

knew well how to rough it with decency ; and 
honestly in that poor, leaky, tumble-down old 
shanty we were for a season far from unhappy. 

Office I had none — not a vestige of one. 
Nevertheless, without appliances of any sort, 
what little work there was to be done was 
expected by the authorities to be accomplished 
with regularity and elegance, as though I had 
all the staff, stationery, cocked hats, brass 
buttons and other impedimenta of Downing 
Street lying under my nose. 

During my official career at the Cape of Good 
Hope, it has on more than one occasion been 
hinted to me by fussy and unwashed Africander 
magnates that my methods of sustaining the 
dignity of the Government left a good deal to be 
desired. For instance, if I wished to interview 
a headman at a distance I should usually chuck 
a gun over my shoulder, and, with a haversack 
containing a little food, walk off and do my 
work. Whereas my brother official would make 
an imposing advance with many orderlies and 
other pretentious paraphernalia around him. If 
he was an ordinarily constructed mortal he would 
go on horseback, but if he happened to be a 
very fat and unwieldy person he would travel 
in a Cape cart or other conveyance. I was 
literally the only South African official that I 
ever heard of who was in the habit of accom- 

Of an Old 'Un 

plishing this distant work on foot. No Africander 
ever walks a yard if he can by any possibility 
avoid it. This process of going about one's 
duties fnagnd comitante catervd is considered to 
be a support of the dignity of the Government. 
As far as the natives themselves are concerned 
this is a perfectly fallacious idea. We who 
know the wily Kafir intimately are well ac- 
quainted with the fact, and, moreover, however 
great a man the Kafir might be, even to the 
chief of a tribe, he would be infinitely more 
impressed by the dignity of the Government 
if, in the name of the said Government, you 
presented him with a ticky (threepenny-bit) 
or a tot of Cape smoke than he would be by 
a tail of orderlies a mile long following at one's 

Of course any fool with half an eye could 
grasp the fact that in my entry into Kuruman 
and my taking up my abode there as Civil 
Commissioner with all these tents, equipages, 
secretaries, orderlies, and the detatchment of the 
B.B. Police, it was the comfort and the dignity 
of the fat little Adminstrator that was desired 
rather than the dignity of the Government. If 
this latter had really and truly been the case, 
would it not, after the departure of the Adminis- 
trator and all his accompanying glories, would 
it not as the weeks passed by, have been more 



sporting Recollections 

likely to have made an impression on the native 
mind of the glory and magnificence of that 
distant land that the Great White Queen was 
ruling over so splendidly, if, when they came to 
pay their tribute to him, or to lay their cases 
for his jurisdiction before him, they had found 
that great Queen's representative housed in a 
building somewhat better than a dog-kennel, 
while he administered justice in a hovel that 
a cave-dwelling baboon would have looked upon 
with scorn ? " Them is my sentiments," as the 
child remarked to his Maker, when he was by 
way of saying his little prayers, and pointed to 
the paper pinned at the foot of his crib on 
which he scribbled his poor little childish 

I not infrequently in those days pondered on 
the most luxurious apartments wherein sat at ease 
the lordly officials at Downing Street. Have 
not even my own feet, when by the Grace of 
God 1 have been allowed to interview these 
mighty potentates in their palaces, sunk down 
into their deep-piled carpets. Have I not 
looked almost with awe on the resplendent ap- 
purtenances that surrounded them ? Have I 
grudged them their luxuries and all their costly 
magnificence .? Not a bit of it ! But while 
sitting alone, an exile in my mud hovel, I have 
thought it might possibly be well if those in 

Of an Old 'Un 

authority at home could occasionally bring 
themselves to give a thought to their servants 
who are working for their King and country 
far away. Perchance their service may be quite 
as faithful and unselfish at £s°° P^^ annum as 
is that of the more fortunate ones who draw 
_^5ooo. Moreover, it gives pause for thought 
to those who serve in distant lands when they 
receive reprimands from the exalted ones be- 
cause, forsooth, they have honestly ventured to 
incur an expenditure of three or four sovereigns 
for the good of their country, when they are 
well aware that thousands are forthcoming from 
the secret service chest to cover over the delin- 
quencies of those who sit in high places and 
pose before the public as philanthropists and 

After I had been at Kuruman some time a 
court house and prison were erected, but no resi- 
dence of any sort for the Civil Commissioner. 
The building was a disgraceful affair, /. e. as a 
building erected by and belonging to the State 
for the use of officials, and as a dwelling for the 
white-skinned constables. The floors were un- 
boarded and consisted of just hardened mud. 
Ceilings there were none. Having nowhere else 
to go I lived entirely in my office, and slept in 
an adjoining chamber where reposed my bed, a 
chair, a tub and the office safe. Sometimes this 


Sporting Recollections 

contained a good deal of money. I thought that 
possibly some ill-advised persons might see fit to 
have a game of romps with that safe one night, 
and if so I thought I'd like to take a hand in that 
game. As may easily be imagined, the summer 
heat in that sub-tropical climate in a building 
with a corrugated iron roof was stupendous. 

So frightfully hot was it one day that a prisoner, 
a black man too, died of heat apoplexy. He 
died in a large cell in which the prisoners were 
sometimes locked up in the day-time. There he 
succumbed and was found dead by the gaoler. 
There was no ventilation of any sort in that 
room. Please remember I had nothing what- 
ever to do with the erection of that rotten build- 
ing ; and had I ever made any suggestion, should 
have got my knuckles well rapped. I therefore 
at once had a proper ventilator put in on my own 
responsibility. It was about time, wasn't it ? 
For daring to incur this enormous expenditure, 
which was about three pounds, I received a 
somewhat severe reprimand. I have had a good 
many in my time. Have you ever heard of a 
duck's back in connection with water ? 

Now had I done what was desired, that 
wretched dead prisoner would have been thrust 
underground without any further ado, without 
an inquest, without any inquiry whatever. No, 
thank you, not if I knew it ! I insisted on a 

Of an Old 'Un 

medical examination by a qualified doctor, and 
wrote the authorities that I would not have the 
poor devil's body buried until such examination 
had taken place and a proper certificate of death 
handed to me. I got my way. A doctor was 
sent, and a certificate that death was the result 
of heat in that accursed prison, a very black-hole 
of Calcutta, given to me. I was sorry for the 
medico, whom I knew well, and a very good 
fellow he was. The post-mortem examination, 
in which I took my part, was no child's play, 
for the man had been dead fully three weeks. 
But enough ! 

My work on the bench at Kuruman was 
usually of the dullest and most uninteresting 
description. It consisted chiefly of settling 
paltry disputes between natives and storekeepers 
under the heading " finance," both sides being 
more than willing to perjure themselves freely 
for the sake of a penny. I had a few differences 
of opinion to adjust among the natives, always 
in connection with meum and tuum^ and usually 
originating in the fracture of the seventh com- 
mandment. In this matter I have found the 
wily Kafir differing in but a very small degree 
from his equally elastic white brother, from a 
moral standpoint. I have lived and administered 
justice among the Amaxosa tribes for many years. 
I have had thousands of them under me in 


sporting Recollections 

war-time, and also have fought against them, and 
have studied theanimalvery deeply indeed, and am 
very fairly well acquainted with his manners and 
customs, which leave a great deal to be desired, 
and of Kafir law as administered by Kafir chiefs 
from time immemorial. It is, indeed, fearfully 
and wonderfully made, and more especially in 
connection with that same seventh commandment. 
Now my fat Administrator, to whom all my 
sentences were sent for confirmation or other- 
wise, and by whom all appeals were reviewed, 
knew more about ordinary law with his little 
finger-nail than did I with my whole body. 
But about the natives and their little ways he 
appeared to me to know next to nothing. How 
should he .? He couldn't ride ; he couldn't 
walk ; he wasn't a man at all from the Kafir's 
point of view. To win a Kafir's heart, and, so 
to speak, to get on the inside track, a white man 
must be able to ride or walk alongside of him all 
day long, to look after his own horse, to procure 
and cook his own food, and sleep on the ground 
in the open alongside their camp fire in peace 
and comfort. Now our Administrator, so far 
from being able to do any of these, could do 
none of them. If left alone on the veldt for a 
week he would assuredly have died of starvation. 
A more unlikely man to win a Kafir's heart 
or to be admitted to his confidence I never 

Of an Old 'Un 

encountered. To him, then, were submitted my 
decisions as to native differences of opinion. 
Not much wonder is it that they were usually 

I will give an instance of a case in connection 
with Kafir marriage, and what it frequently 
leads to. I have had scores of such cases before 
me, chiefly when I was Magistrate over the 
Gcalekas. These cases I settled according to no 
law whatever with which I am acquainted. 
My decisions having been reviewed by the light 
of common sense, and not by law, were never 
reversed, and in due course these nefarious cases 
ceased to be brought into court. 

Most people in these enlightened days know 
that when a Kafir wishes to take unto him a 
certain woman to wife he approaches her 
guardian, and they, after an infinite amount of 
chaffering, settle on the number of cattle that 
shall be paid for her. The cattle are handed 
over, the woman goes to her new kraal, and 
there is the end of the matter. The woman is, 
let us say, a very desirable lady. Very well set 
up, ninety-nine out of a hundred are that, and 
very pretty, but that from any white man's point 
of view is the thing which is not. Then as 
time goes on along comes King David, in the 
guise of a stalvf art Gcaleka, and casts longing eyes 
on Bathsheba. Luckily in this case there is no 


Sporting Recollections 

Uriah the Hittite to be shoved into the forefront 
of the battle, or the Magistrate would take 
exceedingly good care that instead of the easy 
sentence meted out to him in history, and being 
eventually comforted in the fascinating Bath- 
sheba's arms, Master David should most as- 
suredly have felt either the encircling noose of 
the hangman's rope round his neck or the shock 
of half a dozen bullets in his cowardly bosom. 
In our case it was quite otherwise, although 
quite common until I got my magisterial 
clutches on to the malodorous machinations of 
the wily nigger. 

The sheep's eyes of King David and the 
witching glances of Bathsheba had not gone 
unnoticed by that lady's lord and master. Seated 
in front of her hut one evening, Mr. and Mrs. 
Bathsheba made a little plan. The next scene 
was before me in the court. Mr. Bathsheba 
brought a case against King David for the 
recovery of four or five head of cattle, in that 
the monarch had broken the seventh command- 
ment with Bathsheba, and had, in the words of 
the Bible, been taken by the woman's husband 
in the very act. It was an exceedingly clear 
case of adultery, i.e. according to Kafir law. 
Also, after a little cross-examination of Bath- 
sheba and her husband separately, it was equally 
clear that it was all " a put-up job," and that 

Of an Old 'Un 

poor King David had been " had " stock, lock 
and barrel. I gave my decision that Bathsheba 
was an unblushing harlot ; that her husband was 
a dirty, disgraceful, self-constructed cuckold- 
and I finished up by ordering him to hand over 
to King David the same number of cattle that he 
had claimed from the king. It will readily be 
believed that in that country at any rate I very 
soon put an end to immoral married people 
setting traps of such an unblushing and degraded 
nature in the hope of knocking unearned 
damages out of enterprising and unsuspecting 
young sportsmen. My Chief of those days was 
only too delighted to help me in trying to dis- 
estabhsh such disgusting and dissolute customs 
although without any doubt my decisions were 
contrary to any law. At the same time they were 
not nearly so drastic as are some of the punish- 
ments under somewhat parallel circumstances 
that I have read of in Leviticus. 

The only case of importance and of real 
interest that came before me at Kuruman was 
one of murder. It was a most cruel and brutal 
case, and ended in a manner that to me at 
any rate was eminently unsatisfactory. It was 
brought to my notice that some years before 
a young Bushman of about fifteen had been 
murdered by another man, a Mochuana in the 
foothills of the Longberg Mountains, about a 


Sporting Recollections 

hundred miles away from Kuruman. I as- 
certained that there had been a witness to the 
murder. My object was to get hold of that 
witness and persuade him to tell me all about 
it. This was not so easy as it seems, for it is 
exceedingly difficult to get men of the same tribe 
to give evidence against each other. However, 
at length the man was persuaded, and, on my 
giving him a definite promise of immunity from 
all harm whatever that might ensue to him, 
told me the whole story, which was as follows. 

He was asleep on the veldt among some 
mimosas, and not far away was the Bushman 
boy herding his flocks. He was awakened by a 
scream, and on looking round saw a man, whom 
he knew and named, beating the little Bushman 
on the back with a heavy knobkerrie, beating 
him apparently to death. At any rate the little 
Bushman was killed. The murderer then carried 
the body away a short distance and stufFed it down 
an ant-bear hole, that most common receptacle 
in Kafirland for bodies that have come to an 
illicit death, piled some sand on the top and went 
back to where he had killed the boy. I asked 
my narrator why he had not interfered. " I was 
afraid," was the reply. I well believe it. He 
went on with his story. Then the man picked 
up the dead body of a goat that he had killed 
from the ground, and went away with it, and 

Of an Old 'Un 

that was all he knew. I asked if he could take 
me to the ant-bear hole into which the body had 
been thrust. Indeed he could, quite easily, but 
he added that we should now find nothing but 
bones. I made arrangements for the future with 
my man and let him depart. 

In due course I found myself, after a long and 
weary desert ride of nearly a hundred miles, at a 
police camp under the dark Longberg Mountains 
a few miles away. Next morning — it was 
Sunday, I remember — I went away quietly on 
foot with my guide, who had come by appoint- 
ment to meet me. I carried a spade and a sack. 
After a few miles' walk my man stopped, pointed 
to where at his feet was a deserted ant-bear hole, 
and then went and sat in the shade of a mimosa 
a few yards away. Then I set to work with my 
spade, and in due course had excavated a grave 
indeed, in the sand. It was by no means the 
first time that I had with my own hands re- 
trieved a body in a more or less advanced stage 
of decomposition from the ground, but only just 
simple, clean, inoffensive bones never before. I 
came upon a skull first. It was not fractured, 
bearing out what my informant had told me as 
to the manner of the murder. By the time I 
had finished I had the skeleton very nearly 
complete. Then for my ride home again. 
After infinite trouble, and getting a great deal 
o 2 195 

Sporting Recollections 

of false information, I ascertained for certain 
that the murderer had left the Longberg district 
some time before, and was at present working 
on the Orange River, some 250 miles away. I 
called unto mc Trooper Lockie of the B.B.P., 
the only trustworthy and loyal member of that 
most dissolute corps that I ever had under me, 
explained matters to him, gave him a warrant 
for the apprehension of our man, plenty of 
money, and my blessing, and with these he 

About three weeks afterwards along came 
Lockie riding up to the court house with his 
prisoner on foot, handcuffed at the other end of 
a reim. He had done very well in finding him 
at first — no easy matter in that country — then 
in apprehending him, and at last in bringing 
him all that distance, single-handed, without 
giving him a chance of escape. The man made 
a full confession of his crime to me. He had 
killed the little Bushman because the boy had 
seen him steal and kill a goat from among the 
herd in his charge, and he was afraid of his 
evidence. He acknowledged that he had killed 
him by repeated blows of a knobkerrie on the 
back, for, in case the body should be found, he 
did not wish that there should be any external 
signs of his deed. He was perfectly callous 
about the matter, and appeared to think that 

Of an Old 'Un 

the murder of the boy was exactly on a par 
with the killing of the goat. I forwarded all 
the papers in due course to headquarters. Not 
unnaturally I fully expected and hoped that the 
sentence of death would receive the sanction 
of the Governor, and that the brute's execution 
would follow. Not at all ! The papers were 
returned to me, and I was informed that as far 
as could be made out the murder had been 
committed before Bechuanaland had legally 
become British territory, and that as a matter 
of fact I was ultra vires in even having had the 
cowardly, dastardly ruffian apprehended. I was 
therefore to release him forthwith. I did so, 
and as he disappeared across the veldt I thought 
a great deal. 

I had no wish to be hung myself, and I was 
well aware that to see that event take place 
there were many dirty little swine in Bechuana- 
land would have rejoiced greatly. Therefore I 
left undone what I should greatly like to have 
accomplished when I watched that brutal 
murderer walking away a free man. Had I 
dared I would have seen to it that although his 
hanging could not be managed, he should not 
have got many miles away from Kuruman 
before he had found a bullet whizzing through 
his head. The legal luminary at Cape Town, 
who had reviewed the papers that had come 


sporting Recollections 

before him in the case, was so good as to add 
to his remarks that he thought it a great pity 
that so much trouble had been taken, and such 
useless energy thrown away over such an abortive 
case. / merely deemed it an infinite pity that 
such rotten red tape should set loose upon the 
face of the earth a proven criminal, the confessed 
and brutal murderer of an innocent child, for 
whom hanging would have been a lenient 

Long before this, before even the foundations 
of the very far from imposing edifice, the court 
house and prison, had been laid, my poor young 
clerk had gone down with fever and had departed 
on sick leave. He never came back. He was 
never replaced during my sojourn at Kuruman ; 
so I was left alone to do the work of the entire 
establishment. When I took my departure the 
authorities paid me the left-handed compliment 
of sending three men to continue the work that 
I had accomplished single-handed. 

There existed among my almost endless duties 
of account keeping, that of postmaster. Every 
postage stamp that was sold, every understamped 
and unredeemed letter had to go through my 
books ; while the monthly accounts of the 
establishment so confused, so intricate and un- 
necessarily complicated were they, that Machia- 
velli himself would have shuddered at them. 

Of an Old 'Un 

The account keeping of ordinary folk, merchants, 
bankers and others, has always appeared to me 
to be rendered as simple as possible. Govern- 
ment accounts, in distant lands at any rate, 
seem to be run on lines that make the work of 
stupendous bulk, of most unnecessary confusion, 
and to an enormous extent to resemble the peace 
of God which passes all understanding. For 
more than a year when I left Kuruman I had 
been absolutely alone. Except for the very 
occasional visit on business of a missionary or 
a trader, or a chance official word or two with 
my chief constable or head gaoler — both good 
fellows in their way but utterly impossible as 
companions — I never looked on a white face. 

One morning a most respectable-looking 
farmer came into my office and made applica- 
tion for a certain farm in the district that had 
been advertised for sale, and stated that he was 
most anxious that I should do my best with the 
authorities to obtain it for him. We had a 
long talk, and I treated him very affably, for I 
knew he bore a good character, and that he was 
a very fairly honest man. When he was taking 
his departure he dived his hand into a small bag 
he carried, and fishing out a roll of bank-notes, 
as I could plainly see, tried to thrust them upon 
me. Of course I drew back, and with a smile 
told him that we didn't accept bribes in my 


Sporting Recollections 

country. My poor farmer's face fell at the 
rebuff, and as he replaced his notes he remarked, 
" Well, then all I can tell you, sir, is that you 
are the only magistrate in this country who 
doesn't." I believed him to the uttermost. 

There was a law at that time in Bechuanaland 
that any one discovering gold or precious stones 
on his land should, under dire pains and penal- 
ties, report such discovery at once to the nearest 
Civil Commissioner. It happened to come to 
my knowledge that a certain man had " salted " 
his farm with gold dust, and, moreover, that on 
the strength of the finding of gold on his land 
he was trying to sell the same for much. Good ! 
First and foremost I ran him in for finding gold 
on his farm and not reporting it. He couldn't 
get away from that, and for that offence I gave 
him " what for." Then in due course I ran 
him in again for trying to obtain money under 
false pretences, and gave him " what for " again. 

A most frightful handicap that I had to contend 
against in my work was the arrangement made 
for police duty. Of course all over the civilized 
world a Resident Magistrate has police under 
him who have to give his orders implicit 
obedience, or take the consequences. At Kuru- 
man it was not so, nothing like it ! The police 
arrangements were most horribly cumbersome 
and ineffective. I had for my use a detachment 

Of an Old 'Un 

of the Bechuanaland Border Police, sometimes 
in charge of a lieutenant and sometimes of a 
sergeant or corporal. Had this detachment 
been under the Resident Magistrate's imme- 
diate command, and moreover, had he possessed 
the power of punishment for offences committed 
in his own hands, all might have been well. 
But he had no such power at all, no power of 
punishment whatever. Such a system is rotten 
to the core. If the man who is empowered to 
give orders to subordinates is deprived of author- 
ity to punish for offences, as surely as the sun is 
in the sky the machinery will creak and groan 
and eventually crash. If my orders were dis- 
obeyed, as was occasionally the case ; if there was 
slackness in the carrying out of such orders, 
as was quite usual ; if there was drunkenness and 
debauchery in the police camp, as was invariably 
the case, all I could do was to report the matter 
to headquarters, and wait many weeks for a 
reply. I too have had the honour of command- 
ing colonial swashbucklers, and most excellent 
fighting men a great many of them have proved. 
But to command men such as are usually found 
in a frontier corps of irregulars without the 
power of instant punishment is rather like storm- 
ing a fort with guns loaded with thistledown. 
I reported the most disgraceful behaviour of the 
detachment at Kuruman, both officers and 


Sporting Recollections 

troopers, over and over again, and the only reply 
I elicited, as far as I can remember, was that my 
description of the police camp as a " drunken 
brothel " was exceeding the limits of expression 
that ought to be made use of in an official 

My readers will possibly think I am exagger- 
ating. Oh no ! I am not. In proof thereof I 
will give a few trifling episodes in the career of 
a lieutenant of the Bechuanaland Border Police 
who was for a time in charge of the detachment 
at Kuruman. I had some of the details from 
Major Goold-Adams (now Sir Hamilton Goold- 
Adams, G.C.M.G.,etc.,etc.) and Major-General 
Sir F. Carrington, K.C.B., etc. etc. They are, 
I am glad to say, both still with us, and can stand 
forth and contradict me if I state what is not a 
fact. While this officer in question was at Kuru- 
man he proceeded in the most dastardly fashion to 
go out of his way to seduce a trader's daughter. 
The ensuing consequences very nearly caused 
the poor girl's death. The medico-missionary 
who saved her, only just saved her, fancied I 
knew nothing about it. He was wrong ! 

On another occasion this officer and gentleman 
had a liaison with a trader's wife. That's all 
right ! I am no arbiter elegantiarum and I believe 
am no prude. Who am I to trouble my head 
about the contraband amours of any dissolute 

Of an Old 'Un 

and degraded frontier swashbuckler ? But by 
and by our gallant Lothario, getting more than 
usually hard up, sought the deluded Aspasia and 
informed her that if she did not forthwith find 
him fifty pounds he would make a clean breast 
of the whole affair to her husband. 

One more, a quite clean, decent and ladylike 
affair compared to the last. There was a tem- 
perance meeting at Vryburg one evening. To 
this meeting went our lieutenant, drunk and 
with a bottle of whisky in his pocket. He 
made a row, was turned out, and had a fight 
with the doorkeeper, who gave him a good 
licking. Now the Administrator was cognizant 
of this decent affair ; Sir F. Carrington, who 
was in command of the B.B.P., but was away 
on leave, knew of it, and Major Goold-Adams 
knew of it. It was Goold-Adams who first told 
me about it. Nothing was done^ and there was 
not even a reprimand. I have no comment to 

With the exception of the first and second in 
command, and one other officer of the B.B.P., 
I never had the luck to meet one of them with 
whom I would have trusted a petticoat on a 
stick, or a half-crown on the table. The one 
exception was a dear good old thing who never 
tried to borrow money, never drank too much, 
hadn't an // in his composition, never washed, 


Sporting Recollections 

and was as honest as daylight. Naturally they 
gave him the sack. In that corps truth and 
honesty stood no chance. 

In writing to a man with whom I happened 
to be acquainted I mentioned the blackguard of 
a lieutenant referred to before. I wrote that 
without a shadow of doubt he was the most 
unmitigated scoundrel I had ever met in South 
Africa. As I thought would probably be the 
case, this letter was shown to the lieutenant. 
By and by I received a letter from a dirty little 
skunk of a blackmailing attorney in one of the 
frontier towns, with whose most unclean reputa- 
tion I was well acquainted, informing me that 
he had seen the letter in which I had called the 
lieutenant the most unmitigated scoundrel in 
South Africa ; that unless I at once inserted an 
apology in the leading Cape papers and paid 
over to him the sum of ^^500, I should at once 
be proceeded against for criminal libel. O Lord ! 
These two beauties must indeed have thought I 
was a mug. I took up my pen, sat down quickly 
and wrote that I had the honour to acknowledge 
the receipt of the attorney's letter, that it was 
quite correct that I had written that I considered 
the lieutenant the most unmitigated scoundrel 
in South Africa. Then I added, " I have, how- 
ever, since writing those words, had occasion to 
change my opinion. I now believe I know one 

Of an Old 'Un 

other scoundrel quite as unmitigated as the 
lieutenant, and if you lay hold of your best 
Sunday looking-glass and take a squint into it 
you will see his face in front of you." I never 
heard another word about the matter. Even if 
the rogues could have raked together or stolen 
money enough to start the stone rolling, I knew 
well enough that neither of them dared face the 
evidence I could have given in the witness-box 
as to their characters. 

But I think that is about enough of Kuruman 
and its affairs. I am sure that it is more than 
enough about the people with whom I was 
connected while I was wearing out my life in 
that dreary and ungodly hole. I hope my readers 
will believe, and I venture to think that my 
legions of kind friends will know, that when the 
affairs of this life go awry, when the clouds are 
very heavy and without a sign of any silver 
lining, I am not one to lie down in the ash-bin 
and howl. Nevertheless Kuruman very nearly 
beat me. I am inclined to think now that when 
I quitted its arid regions I was not very far from 
a mental breakdown. I don't wonder. I had 
been alone day and night for more than a year, 
and except for on occasional official word or two 
with gaoler and constable, never had communi- 
cation with any white people at all. The hand 
of almost every official in the country was against 


Sporting Recollections 

me — luckily for me it was only on paper — and 
they were all, so to speak, thirsting for my blood. 
Every single one of the heads of the various 
departments was away on leave, sick or otherwise, 
some of these departments were represented by 
dirty little time-serving colonial cads, and one 
or two by young fellows from Government 
House, pitchforked upstairs to do Rhodes' dirty 
work and help to lay the foundation stones of 
some of his dastardly schemes. Verily I say 
unto you, they have reaped their reward, I am, 
as I sit in my humble abode with empty pockets, 
but I hope at the same time with clean hands, 
thankful that I was hated, and that I never for 
one instant thought of taking part with that 
band of lick-spittles who lay grovelling on the 
carpet around the rich man's table, waiting with 
greedy eyes and open mouths for the crumbs that 
should fall from it. I thank God that when day 
after day I chuck my gun over my shoulder and 
wander away to the covert-side, I am met with 
kindly smiles on all sides and a hearty welcome 
in endless country homes. I would not change 
these things for all the gold in Rhodesia, nor 
even to be made one of the noble band of 
Knights Bachelors, although the good Queen 
Bess did affirm that she had no greater honour 
to bestow. I rather think, from what I see 
around me, that the meaning of the words honour 

Of an Old 'Un 

and knighthood must have suffered some very 
alarming change since the days when such men 
as Richard Grenville, Walter Raleigh, and Francis 
Drake were proud to bend to receive the 

Just to show the indecency of the treatment 
meted out to me towards the close of my career 
at Kuruman, not to mention the word injustice, 
I may mention that my clerk's annual salary was 
^200. Having done his work for more than a 
year, I applied for remuneration out of such 
unapplied funds. Result, peremptory refusal. 
When at last I found my health failing I applied 
for sick leave on half pay. Refused ! Leave 
would only be granted without any pay at all. 
And this although I had not taken a day's leave 
of any sort since entering on my duties ; and also 
that at the very moment of my application at 
least three heads of departments were away on 
long ordinary leave on full pay. It is not always 
that the goose and the gander are on all fours. 
In due course I got my leave for a certain date, 
without any pay at all, and made my plans 
to return home forthwith. The day for my 
departure arrived. I was a free man on granted 
leave. Not a soul had been sent to take over my 
duties. Of course any fool could see that it was 
a " put-up-job," and I got to know afterwards 
who it was that played me that dirty, spiteful 


sporting Recollections 

trick. Just the sort of thing he would do. He 
was one of Rhodes's creatures, and a paltry little 
cad at that. I didn't wait for my successor, of 
course. Why should I ? My leave had been 
granted, and why should I wait on and on for a 
man who for all I knew or cared might be dead 
and down an ant-bear hole by the roadside. I 
called unto me an honest storekeeper from near 
by who very kindly went through my books and 
counted my cash and took it over. Then I took 
my departure for Kimberley and home. 

Some time before leaving Kuruman I had 
appealed to the Secretary for the Colonies, Lord 
Knutsford, as to the treatment that had been 
meted out to me, for I well knew I might as 
well appeal to a dead oyster as to Sir Hercules 
Robinson, and much good it did me. I was 
never even allowed to see his lordship or to speak 
to him. His secretary and clerks took very good 
care of that. They foisted off excuse after excuse 
upon me, assured me that I could explain matters 
to them, which was (so they said) equivalent to 
an interview with his lordship. They talked a 
lot more rot which I didn't swallow, and so it all 
ended. I sent in my resignation, />y request, 
receiving a gratuity as compensation, which 
made me smile. I was also fined a considerably 
less sum than the gratuity for having dared to 
quit Kuruman before my successor had seen fit 

Of an Old 'Un 

to turn up, although I had the Government's 
permission to go on leave the day I did so, on 
an official document as big as a barge, in my 

But I am howling like a pig in a gate over 
paltry grievances. What were my grievances 
compared to endless others that come flooding 
across my memory in a moment .? What about 
that splendid man General Butler, who was 
purposely hindered in his work on the Nile by 
the authorities at home, and thwarted at every 
turn in his untiring endeavours to get his relief 
expedition to Khartoum in time to save poor 
Gordon's life .? What of poor broken-hearted 
Bartle Frere .? I think the finest man I have 
ever served under. To come to present times, 
what of Edalji ? What has been done to recom- 
pense that poor, abominably maltreated man for 
his oppression by Government ? and what for 
his utterly undeserved imprisonment and ruined 
career ? Nothing ! What of Archer Shee ? I 
am not sure that that poor boy's case was not the 
most disgraceful of all. How the Government 
strove tooth and nail to make out they were 
right, and that the most palpably innocent 
boy was guilty. Lucky indeed was it for him 
that he possessed powerful friends, influence and 
money, or his innocence would never have been 
made clear, or at any rate would never have been 
p 209 


sporting Recollections 

acknowledged by Government, One more case 
and I have done, although I can think of 
hundreds, every one of which goes far to make 
my blood boil. Any one who has studied history 
in the early 'fifties will be aware of what that 
magnificent man James Outram went through, 
what oppression and indignities he suffered at the 
hands of the Government. He was at that time 
Resident at Baroda. 

The system of corruption and bribery called 
" Khatpat " was rife, was rampant on all sides. 
Outram tried to put it down. He strove most 
manfully to exterminate the system amidst 
almost overwhelming difficulties and opposition. 
Did the Government help him .? Quite the 
contrary. They metaphorically hit him over 
the head with bludgeons and brickbats ; they 
administered reprimand after reprimand ; they 
accepted lying stories about him from dishonest 
natives, and eventually insisted on his resig- 
nation. He returned to England forthwith. 
But not long after, it having been ascertained in 
England with what energy, acumen and up- 
rightness his work at Baroda had been accom- 
plished, he was recalled to India and reinstated 
in the very position from which he had been 
dismissed. Years before this, in advocating the 
case of a Lieut. Hammersley who had been 
most shamefully and unjustly treated, and sus- 

Of an Old 'Un 

pended from duty, Outram had got himself into 
hot water with the powers that were. Never- 
theless he was found to be right, and that 
Hammersley was innocent of what had been 
urged against him. This decision was a little 
late, for when it should have been communicated 
to the unfortunate fellow he had been dead three 
days. He died raving mad, babbhng of the 
wicked injustice that had been meted out to 

But once more it is enough ! As it was in 
the days of Noe, so shall it be until the day of 
judgment. Indeed in the days that are now 
with us I can't say that I observe any sign of 
amehoration in the Government of Great Britain 
and Ireland, either in their love of truth, their 
sobriety, their morals, or anything that is theirs. 
I thank my God morning and night on my poor 
stiff old knees that I have not had, and I will 
take exceedingly good care that I never do have, 
anything to do with any one of them. 

For the very last strokes of the shuttle at 
Kuruman let us for a page or two study geology. 
With that view I will lead you right away into 
the bowels of the earth, where it is clean and 
sweet, so that at any rate we may quit the 
foetid moral atmosphere in which I had been 
dwelling so much too long, with the odour of 
dear, clean, lovely mother earth in our nostrils. 
P 2 211 

sporting Recollections 

In Bechuanaland, as marked in our atlases, 
are many rivers. The Kuruman river is one of 
them. These rivers, as far as my experience 
goes, have no abiding existence above ground 
and no continuous flow. Some of them appear, 
flow for a mile or two, and then apparently die 
away or come to the surface again a dozen miles 
or more further on in the form of small and 
possibly stagnant creeks. The Kuruman river 
was no exception to the rule ; but it had a con- 
tinuous flow at Kuruman or Latakoo, to use its 
real Sechuana name, of some four miles, and at 
certain times more. When I first knew the 
place, about a couple of miles down from the 
mission station was a rush-encircled lake of 
about forty acres, the home of many duck and 
other water-fowl. Among them many rare 
ones, including Spoonbills, and once Avocets. 
Avocets in an oasis of that desert country, and 
about a thousand miles from the sea-coast, struck 
me as quite an ornithological freak. I was not 
mistaken, for I shot one and skinned it. This 
lake as time went on disappeared ; and when I 
came away its bed — it was nowhere more than 
five feet deep — was just as dry as the sur- 
rounding desert. The source of the Kuruman 
river, above ground at any rate, was not more 
than a quarter of a mile from the court-house, 
but where its real origin was in the depths of 

Of an Old 'Un 

the earth God alone knew. It first showed 
itself from under a great rock at the foot of a 
stony hillside, with an excellent flow of crystal 
clear water, of about the same size and strength 
as that of the Kentish Darent opposite the Lion at 
Farningham. From there it meandered away 
down the fertile valley, being led off into side 
streams and small channels in places without 
number to irrigate the gardens of the sur- 
rounding inhabitants, missionaries, a trader or 
two, and their black brethren without end. 

We have all of us, in King Solomon's Mines 
and other works of the same author, read of 
most thrilling expeditions into the depths of 
the earth of an exceedingly weird nature. I 
fancy Sir Rider Haggard may possibly have 
derived his ideas from a most wonderful under- 
ground passage that existed, and no doubt still 
exists, near the source of the Kuruman river. I 
have been through that passage many times ; I 
have explored it most thoroughly. It was 
creepy work. I am by no means sure that in 
these present days the conditions of either my 
nerves or my waist would permit such ex- 
plorations, for some of the passages are extremely 
low and narrow, which is bad for the waist ; 
also one may remember that a dislodged rock 
falling behind one would shut one off from the 
outer world in those dark caverns for ever, and 


Sporting Recollections 

that thought is trying to the nerves. Among 
the rocks on the hillside was a small opening 
through which one could insert oneself and 
enter a larger passage ; through this one could 
make one's way by wriggling, and here and 
there crawling, until one attained to a closet- 
like aperture. In this it was necessary to turn 
round, a very tight fit, and drop out over a rock 
on the other side feet first. Then one came to 
quite a good open passage for some considerable 
distance, along which one could walk upright 
and quite comfortably. But along this passage 
flowed the Kuruman river, in places above one's 
hips, so soon to quit for the first time the regions 
of darkness and emerge into the light of day and 
look upon the glorious South African sun. 

After leaving that passage the most jumpy and 
weird part of the journey had to be encountered, 
for one had to go flat down on one's stomach 
and crawl some yards through an aperture along 
which no fat man — most assuredly not the fat 
Administrator of Bechuanaland — could possibly 
have forced his way. Also that passage always 
had two or three inches of water in it. The 
water of course mattered nothing, but its very 
presence gave one pause for thought, not uncon- 
nected with a possible and sudden rise of water 
while one was, serpent-like, worming one's way 
along that ungodly burrow. After that all was 

Of an Old 'Un 

easy going, and one at length found oneself in a 
large and lofty cavern sixty or seventy yards in 
circumference and more than twenty feet high. 
There was a beautiful clean, sandy floor, and in 
this cavern were many bats, but none of the 
great fruit-eating fellows that are not far short 
of two feet across their wings. This cavern was 
the end of the passage, for I searched diligently 
many times and could find no possible exit. 
The total length of this subterranean way was, I 
was told, a quarter of a mile. Had you asked 
me its length after my first expedition through 
it, I fancy I should have put it at many miles. 
But after frequent journeys along it to and fro, 
both with my trusty guide and later alone, 
familiarity convinced me that two hundred 
yards was the very outside length of the whole 

On one occasion in the water I saw a few 
fish. They were evidently of the species called 
" Barbers " in those regions. They appeared to 
be pure white, and in the light shed by our 
candles looked weird and ghost-like as they 
swam round our legs. With a view to closer 
inspection I afterwards carried a stick with three 
fish-hooks lapped on the end, a weapon I have 
on occasions found not ineffective in climes other 
than Bechuanaland ; but I never saw those white 
" Barbers " again. 


Sporting Recollections 

The man who surveyed the site for the erection 
of the court house expressed himself as anxious 
to explore those caves. I must confess I looked 
on his nerves with suspicion, for I had once 
been in his company in a small affair of an 
upset out of a Cape cart. His behaviour on 
that particular occasion was without form 
and void. Events showed that my suspicions 
as to his nerves for subterranean explorations 
proved to be not unjustified. We managed our 
outward journey without mishap, although I 
had noticed that the poor surveyor was more 
than a little jumpy. But on the return, when 
he got into the little closet cavern where it was 
necessary to turn round, he got stuck in turning, 
or thought he had got stuck, and set to and 
screamed — yes, shrieked at the very top of his 
voice. I was close by and laid hold of his 
hand and pacified him a little, poor beggar, for 
he was fairly terrified — I suppose at his own 
imagination, for there was nothing else to disturb 
him. A pretty spectacle in an underground 
cave about four feet square and three high — the 
Civil Commissioner of Kuruman with a candle 
in one hand, and with the other grasping that 
of a terrified land surveyor, who was yelling 
meanwhile loud enough to make the roof of the 
cave fall down and obliterate the whole concern ! 
I calmed him down at length and got him out 

Of an Old 'Un 

into the open, looking more like a moribund 
monkey than an animated morsel of humanity. 
I will candidly acknowledge all the same, though 
I laugh now, that the first time I emerged into 
the open air from those underground horrors I 
felt rather as I have done in days of yore when 
I have survived my first over in an important 
cricket match, when the bowling was very fast 
and the wicket not quite all that it should have 

On ray journey home there was only one 
incident of anv importance, and that one only 
of any moment to the writer of these pages. 
During the voyage I was struck by a pufF adder 
that was on its way to the Zoological Gardens. 
I am allowed by my friend Mr. Theodore 
Cook, the most courteous editor of T/ie Field, 
to insert a verbatim account of that episode as 
published in his excellent periodical. It is as 
follows — 


"The wound it seemed both sore and sad 

To every Christian eye, 
And while they swore the dog was mad, 

Thev swore the man would die. 
But soon a wonder came to light 

That showed the rogues they lied. 
The man recovered of the bite — 

The dog it was that died." — Goldsmith. 


Sporting Recollections 

And although it is twenty-two years, almost 
to a day, since that venomous reptile [Clotho 
arietans) got one of his fangs well across my 
right forefinger — trigger finger, worse luck. — 
I am still hale and hearty. If I cannot do a 
day's work, it is nothing at all to do with the 
poor puff adder, for whom I have always had 
a feeling of respect, but rather the result of 
the frequent and persistent calls of that exceed- 
ingly disagreeable and ill-clad old gentleman 
who wanders about the world with his scythe 
and hourglass reminding people that youth 
has passed away and that old age brings in 
its train stiffness of limbs, dimness of eyesight, 
and plenty of other abominations. 

Lest my readers should think that this story 
is an imagination, or merely the child of an 
inventive brain, I may refer all who are 
interested in the question to a letter which 
appeared in the British Medical yournal of 
June I, 1889 (without any authority from 
me, however), written by a doctor who, to a 
very small extent, attended me. This letter is 
incorrect in many details, but it is there in 
print " to witness if I lie." I may preface my 
story, then, by saying that I suppose I am the 
only man living who has been bitten — " struck " 
is really the proper word, for poisonous snakes 
do not " bite " — by a puff adder. In South 

Of an Old 'Un 

Africa their stroke is looked upon as certain 
death in a very short time. 

In the summer of 1887 — ^Jubilee year of 
blessed memory — I was offered by the Imperial 
(not Cape) Government the appointment of 
Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate of 
Kuruman, in British Bechuanaland. And it vv^as 
in that capacity that I was sitting one day 
in my office at Kuruman when there entered 
to me one of my trusty police who knew my 
ways, and that birds, beasts, snakes, butterflies, 
and all such " small deer " were a joy unto me. 
He told me that he had seen a very large puff 
adder about a mile away lying asleep on the 
sand among some bushes. Would I like to 
get it ? He had left a mate to watch it. Yes, 
I thought I would like to get it, for I was 
returning to England — by the mercy of a benign 
Providence — in a day or two, and thought I 
would take it to my friend Tyrrell, who super- 
intended all the reptiles at the ^oo. When we 
arrived at the place where it had been the 
watcher told us it had gone away, but that he 
had marked it into a small patch of veldt bushes 
close by. I soon saw it, and crawled in after it, 
and in a moment had it by the scruff of the neck, 
so to speak. To ordinary mortals the handling 
of snakes is an abomination. To begin with, 
they are afraid of them. In this I do not blame 


Sporting Recollections 

them, for to them all snakes are fearsome brutes, 
and also poisonous, whereas in reality only about 
one in twenty is so. For instance, has it not 
been impressed upon me from my very cradle by 
all the old wives, both male and female, here in 
my own country in West Kent, that the pretty 
little, fragile slow worm, than which a more 
absolutely inoffensive, gentle creature does not 
exist, and which by the same token is not a 
snake at all, is a very deadly reptile ? Then, 
again, the casual observer thinks that all snakes 
are dirty, slimy brutes. They are no such thing. 
I grant our common British grass snake can stink 
more than a little, and him I do not like hand- 
ling until he knows me and has made friends, 
when he will keep his odour to himself. I 
think a deadly hatred of all snakes is born in us ; 
but I very soon overcame this feeling myself by 
at first handling dead snakes, and then living 
innocuous ones, and at last those that were 
poisonous. I would now just as soon handle a 
cobra as a dead stick ; but then it must be 
remembered that I give him no earthly chance 
to get at me. Well, yes ; I must grant I once 
made a mistake with a pufF adder, but that was 
only a fluke, and not altogether my fault. No 
one ought to handle thanatophidians, or death 
snakes, until all feeling of repulsion, even when 
a snake has his coils round your arms, has 

Of an Old 'Un 

entirely vanished. If you have the slightest 
fear of any snake it is absolutely unsafe to 
handle one at all. 

But to return to my own pufF adder. I 
carried him back to my quarters. I ought, 
however, to say " her " instead of " him," for 
she was a lady, although she behaved while I 
was conveying her ladyship to her new home 
in a most unladylike and perfectly outrageous 
manner. Puff adders are the most apparently 
peaceful and lethargic of snakes, and as a rule 
they will not move until they are touched or 
trodden upon ; but when they are once really 
roused nothing can exceed their passion and the 
lightning-like rapidity of their movements. As 
an instance of this, I was once rowing down a 
river in South Africa, and saw a full-sized puff 
adder swimming along — for they are very fond 
of water — some twenty yards away. I took up 
my gun and shot at him, and while he was 
wriggling I sculled up and lifted him on the 
blade of the scull. As I watched I saw a sort 
of haze round the blade, and plainly heard his 
jaws snap, and there he was with a coil round 
the scull, and his jaws holding on to the edge of 
it like a bull-dog. After I had shaken him off 
into the bottom of the boat I found one of his 
fangs still sticking in the scull. As an instance 
of how lethargic a puff adder can be, I once was 


Sporting Recollections 

tying up the painter of the same boat on the 
bank of the same river. My wife, who was 
with me, was walking on across the sand. I 
happened to look round, and saw her in the 
very act and article of stepping over a full-sized 
pufF adder that was lying on the hot sand. Her 
footprints, as I saw afterwards on the sand, were 
within very few inches of the brute. He had 
not moved, and did not until I hit him a pat 
with a piece of driftwood. It was a very close 
call, for stockings are no good against the three- 
quarter-inch fangs of a full-grown pufF adder. 
Why do they do it ? I mean why do ladies go 
about unprotected in a place like that, where 
snakes almost swarmed at times ? I cannot tell 
you ; but they do, and many men — mostly 
Englishmen — go everywhere in their usual 
knickerbockers. Personally, I seldom wore 
anything else. When one has resided for some 
time in a snaky country one wholly ignores the 
fact that snakes exist — one literally never gives 
them a thought. 

There was not the smallest doubt that day at 
Kuruman about the lady I was carrying being in 
a most uncontrollable passion. She writhed her 
coils backwards and forwards round my arm ; 
she snapped her jaws like castanets, the poison 
meanwhile dripping from her fangs. She was, 
indeed, just then a very lively person indeed, and 

Of an Old 'Un 

far removed from being in any way lethargic. 
In due course she was safely stowed away 
in an empty cartridge box, wrapped round with 
an old Eton Rambler blazer, which by the same 
token I never remembered to retrieve from the 
Zoo. Her ladyship was not so very big after 
all — only three feet four — but I must allow she 
made up for it in breadth, for she had a waist 
that no lady with the slightest respect for her 
personal appearance would have submitted to. 
I found her ladyship was a bit of a fidget, 
especially at night, for she used to ghde round 
and round her prison without ceasing, making 
a peculiar, rather weird, but by no means un- 
pleasant, rusthng noise. We have all read of 
" the scream of a maddened beach dragged down 
by the waves," but it was nothing like that, 
although it did exactly resemble the soothing 
swish, swish, swish made by the pebbles on the 
glittering beach as the gentle summer wavelets 
murmur to and fro in the tide. 

A few days afterwards I was in Kimberley for 
a night on my way to Cape Town. I had an 
exceedingly circumscribed sleeping apartment, 
and, having removed the puff adder from my 
portmanteau and put her — inside her box by 
the way — on the table which was close to my 
bed, I could very distinctly hear the frou-frou of 
her scales as she glided round and round her box. 


sporting Recollections 

It was an unaccustomed lullaby, but infinitely 
better than the serenade of the prowling and 
amatory tom-cat, to which suburban citizens are 
wont, with muttered curses, to listen aghast. I 
was getting drowsy when the hour of midnight 
was tolled from an adjacent church. As the last 
stroke died away there rose upon the air one of 
the sweetest strains to which it was ever my lot 
to listen. Four men's voices, exceptionally good 
and trained to perfection, were singing in the 
near distance the hymn " Peace, perfect peace," 
not so well known then as it has since become. 
I could hardly believe my ears, and sat up in bed 
to drink in "those witching strains." Meanwhile 
her ladyship from her box warned me with her 
" shsh, shsh, shsh," that the trail of the serpent 
was over it all. " Peace, perfect peace, with 
loved ones far away." " Shsh, shsh, shsh." How 
little I imagined as I listened to the hymn and 
thought of my own loved ones far away, towards 
whom I was voyaging, that my weird companion, 
which was making its presence known with such 
simple, innocent sounds, was to cast me ere I 
met those dear ones again into the very jaws of 
death. The lovely hymn died away, leaving an 
unfilled blank. I felt as though I ought almost 
to discern the disappearing wing of Israfil him- 
self, so enchanting had been the sounds. I was 
never able to ascertain whence this all-too-short 

Of an Old 'Un 

melody had emanated, but I expect it came from 
part of the choir of a Roman Catholic chapel. 
It would have been no disgrace to that of the 
Vatican itself. 

I went on to Cape Town by train, and on 
arriving sought the shipping office to take my pas- 
sage. The vessel, the Roslyn Castle, was full — 
full and overflowing, and they assured me that 
neither love nor money could procure me a 
berth. Most fortunately I knew the skipper 
well, and he soon had matters arranged by giving 
me a sofa in the cabin of an old gentleman, who 
I must say behaved like an angel in most 
graciously putting up with my presence with- 
out a murmur, for I am quite certain that in his 
inmost feelings he must have deemed me, a 
perfect stranger, a most unmitigated nuisance. 
When towards the end of the voyage that dear, 
good man found out that over and above myself 
he had travelled all the way across the Atlantic 
with a pufF adder in his cabin, the horror 
depicted on his countenance can probably be 
imagined more easily than described. 

The evening that we sailed from Madeira we 
were after dinner a large and very cheery party 
in the smoking-room. Somehow or other it had 
become known to my fellow-passengers that 
I had a puff adder with me in my portman- 
teau. They begged to be allowed to see it, and 
Q 225 

Sporting Recollections 

implored mc to go and get it. For a long time 
I refused ; but at last was over-persuaded and 
fetched her ladyship, and in doing this I proved 
myself once more to be a fool. I do not think 
any one should handle poisonous and angry snakes 
except when alone. There should be nothing to 
take away the attention from what one is doing, 
even for the fraction of a second. For, after all, 
handling an infuriated thanatophidian is rather 
like playing with death. I took her ladyship 
out of her box and held her close behind her 
head, while I explained to the audience and 
spectators the marvellous internal economy of 
the poison apparatus. I opened her mouth and 
displayed the fangs rising and falling, showed 
where the poison glands lay, and how the 
muscles which raised the fangs at the same time 
pressed on the glands and forced the poison 
through the tiny duct that ran down the fang 
and into any substance into which the fang had 
been pressed. I did not at all imagine that in 
about a couple of minutes the aforesaid sub- 
stance was going to be my trigger finger, but 
so it was. 

My lecture being concluded, I proceeded to 
put her ladyship back in her temporary home. 
It must not be forgotten that she had been 
somewhat shamefully treated. She had been 
held for several minutes by the neck with great 

Of an Old 'Un 

firmness, she had had her mouth held open 
against her will while its internal mechanism 
had been expatiated upon, and had, indeed, 
suffered such indignities at my hands that she 
was in a most towering passion, and raging to 
fix her fangs in some foe. When one is getting 
rid of a poisonous snake without wishing to hurt 
it one should, in the first instance, be sure that 
no coil is wound round an arm or elsewhere, 
and that its whole body is free. Then, when 
one lets go one's hold, one's hands should be 
instantly snatched away and out of reach in 
the very act of quitting one's hold. When I 
was in the very act of quitting my hold of her 
ladyship some one close by spoke to me, asking 
a question, and I have no doubt — for I cannot 
say I was aware of the fact — I left my hand 
within reach of her deadly fangs instead of 
snatching it out of her way. I must have 
turned away my head to the man who spoke 
to me, for I did not see her stroke. But as 
I quitted my hold of her, in that very instant, 
as it seemed to me, I felt as though a knife 
had been sharply drawn across my finger, and, 
looking down, I saw the blood flowing freely 
and her ladyship out of her box and on the 
table, across which she attempted to make her 
way. I caught her by the tail, snatched her 
back, , and jammed my arm down firmly on 
Q 2 227 

Sporting Recollections 

her head, and soon had her by the neck again, 
and with some Httle trouble, and I must admit 
risk of another bite, got her safely into her 
box once more. I suppose that when I was 
struck there were about twenty men in the 
room ; twenty seconds afterwards there was not 
one. I never saw a room cleared of its contents 
in like time ; they simply tumbled over each 
other. I yelled with laughter — I could not help 
it, although I was in such parlous state myself. 
Then, the causa teterrima belli being safely dis- 
posed of, the company came slowly back again 
and the doctor appeared. Of course, I asked 
for ammonia. There was none on the ship. 
For a record lot of stale, old, worn-out drugs — 
or, indeed, lack of them — commend me to a 
ship's drug-store. Well, as there was no 
ammonia, I took a great deal of brandy. I 
lanced my finger myself right down to the bone, 
all along where the snake's fang had made a 
long wound, and, moreover, with my own knife. 
Then I sucked the wound very vigorously, and 
I remember well the doctor trying to make me 
expectorate on to the floor of the smoking-room, 
which I wholly declined to do. I did not see 
why, even if I had got a death-wound, I should 
not depart with a clean record, instead of that 
of a dirty pig. Also I knew well, which pro- 
bably the doctor did not, that a small amount 

Of an Old 'Un 

of snake poison like that taken internally would 
not do me any more harm than a square gin cock- 
tail, probably not so much. Then I gave my 
keys and home address, in case of accidents, 
to my good friend Walter Lockhart, who had 
promised to look after me and also to carry 
out my instructions to the letter while I re- 
mained insensible, and soon after that I became 

I told Lockhart that probably I should be 
reported dead, but that I should not be, and 
that if he could get even a few drops of brandy 
down my throat when my heart failed it would 
jog on again, and that by and by I should come 
to. It was not ten minutes from the time the 
snake struck me to the time when I lay down 
on the smoking-room sofa and became uncon- 
scious. That was about ten o'clock. When I 
came to again the East was just getting rosy with 
the morning sun. Now what took place during 
those nine hours I cannot state on oath, although 
I was present, but I believe every word of what 
was told me by Lockhart, who sat by me the 
whole night through and carried out my instruc- 
tions to the letter. I have not the slightest 
doubt that had it not been for him I should 
have been sent, wrapped up in a wad of canvas, 
with a bag of old iron for a companion, to the 
bottom of the deep blue sea some 350 miles this 


sporting Recollections 

side of Madeira. The doctor came and looked 
at me occasionally and said I was very bad. 
Well, Lockhart could have told him that. By 
and by towards morning he told Lockhart that 
I was dead and that he was only fooling about 
with a corpse, and added that he should send 
a quartermaster to sew me up in my canvas 
shroud. To this dear old Lockhart replied that 
he did not care a damn what the doctor said, 
and that he was going to do exactly as I had 
instructed him, and as to the quartermaster, if 
he came along and laid a finger on me he would 
be a very sick quartermaster indeed before he, 
Lockhart, had done with him. By and by I 
opened my eyes with understanding, and spoke 
to old Lockhart with some degree of sense. I 
do not think I ever saw a man look quite so 
pleased in my life. I have had a "head" or 
two in my time, and have been knocked about 
a bit, and have ached and been broken in almost 
every bone of my body, but I do not think I ever 
felt so ill or suffered such tortures of pain as I 
felt when I recovered consciousness that morn- 
ing. I ached from the tip of my finger to my 
shoulder as though the bone were red-hot iron, 
and my arm looked like a hard pillow. They 
carried me to Lockhart's bunk, and there I lay 
for twenty-four hours. Then with the help of 
an arm I could crawl a few yards. By degrees 

Of an Old 'Un 

the pain grew less, and by the time I reached 
home I began to take a little interest in life ; 
but for months I had to be very gentle with 
myself, and even six months afterwards, when I 
began shooting, I had to be most careful. I 
have never since been so strong as I was before, 
and have come to know the meaning of the 
word " tired," which I was unacquainted with 
before her ladyship took hold of me. 

I notice, among many other foolish additions 
which have been made to this story elsewhere, 
the statement that the pufF adder died a week 
after biting me. Did it ? I can testify to the fact 
that after the University cricket match of that 
year, which came to its conclusion quite early 
in the day, about a dozen of us went to the 
Zoo and saw it alive. I must allow that her 
ladyship looked very far from well. Poor beast ! 
Who can wonder, for she had eaten nothing of 
any description, not even a mouse, since that 
evening on the Roslyu Castle when she tried to 
take a bite out of me. Now that was on 
April 25, and we all know when the 'Varsity 
match takes place. I happened to call at the 
Zoo the very day her ladyship passed away to her 
Valhalla, where I presume the climate would 
most excellently agree with her, and where, if 
stories of apples and temptations be true, she 
would not be the only snake in the menagerie. 


sporting Recollections 

I took her emaciated form to Rowland Ward, 
who very cleverly restored her appearance, and 
renovated her lost contours, and at the same 
time made her look, very fierce and aggressive, 
with head erect and fangs displayed. She adorns 
at the present moment the Natural History 
Museum of Tonbridge School, with a photo- 
graph of the man she so very unsuccessfully tried 
to exterminate alongside of her. 

Immediately on the arrival of the Roslyn 
Castle in the London Docks, my fellow-voyager. 
Lord Claude Hamilton, most kindly and 
promptly went off to old Sir Joseph Fayrer, 
who was I suppose at the time the highest 
authority on thanatophidians and their poisons, 
and the results of absorbing the same, and told 
him of the case, and that he would shortly 
receive a visit from me. Soon afterwards I 
called at his house in Harley Street. He ex- 
amined my finger, which was indeed a ghastly 
spectacle, and much too offensive-looking for 
description here. Suffice it to say that I thought 
it useless to try and save it, and had already 
implored our own doctor, Arthur Maude, of 
Westerham, Kent, who I am glad to say, is still 
with us, to cut it off and have done with it. 
This he refused to do, and with the utmost care 
and cleverness, added to a free use of lancet and 
neat carbolic, in little more than six months had 

Of an Old 'Un 

changed it from a useless and painful stick of 
putrefied flesh into a member that through the 
ensuing shooting season was able to pull a 
trigger not more ineffectively than usual, and 
the following cricket season to let byes behind 
the wicket and secure " ducks' eggs " in front 
of them, very much as usual. 

Sir Joseph and I had a very long talk, and as 
to my own case, he said that except from blood- 
poisoning there was now no fear of any fatal 
consequences. He asked if he might send down 
the street for a doctor, a friend of his, who took 
great interest in snake lore. So he came along, 
and we had a great palaver, and talked " snake " 
right away from the fourteen feet Ophiophagus 
elaps, largest of poisonous snakes, down to the 
little rustling Echis carinata, that in spite of 
its small body carries poison in its glands almost 
as deadly as the worst of its ophidian relatives. 

"And where at the present moment is this 
brute that struck you .? " asked Sir Joseph. 

" In a hansom standing at your door, en route 
for the Zoo, to which place I am now on my 
way," was my reply. 

"The devil he is ! Let's get him in here 
and have a look at him." 

No sooner said than done. I fetched the box 
in, took off the covering, and raised the lid, and 
was -instantly greeted with a very ominous and 


Sporting Recollections 

prolonged hiss. It must not be forgotten that 
I only had one hand to use, for the ofFending 
— or shall I say the offended — member was very 
well wrapped up and in a sling. Sir Joseph 
and his friend looked on, and the former re- 
marked : " Well, all I can say is, if you've been 
struck by that brute, you've no earthly right to 
be alive. I suppose you won't handle any more 
snakes now .? " I laughed, and in less time than 
it takes to tell it, had her ladyship pinned by the 
neck and out of her box and in my hand. I 
can tell you, though, she got no chance of get- 
ting in a second barrel that round. After some 
examination by the two experts I put her back 
safely, and we continued our journey, and she 
was in due course deposited in her nice, new, 
warm, glass-fronted house, in charge of my 
friend Tyrrell. 

One more scene, and rather an amusing one, 
in connection with her ladyship, and I have 
done. I one day entered the reptile-house with 
a view to making inquiries after her health, and 
saw two or three dozen people collected in front 
of the puff adder inclosure, to whom Tyrrell was 
apparently delivering a lecture. Unobserved by 
him I drew near and listened. He was recounting 
to the surrounding populace, in connection with 
her ladyship, who was lying very peacefully in 
front of them, on the other side of the glass, 

Of an Old 'Un 

my truly hairbreadth escape from the imminent 
deadly serpent. They certainly were " devour- 
ing " Tyrrell's discourse. As he came to the 
end thereof he turned and saw me, and pointing 
at me added, as if it were the epilogue to his 
narrative, the words: "And there's the gentle- 



Fishing, lots of it — My Welsh tutor, his headers which were 
not heathrSy quite the reverse ! — The Darent — My first 
trout — The wrath of the Squire — Tarred roads and conse- 
quently dead trout — Squerryes — General Wolfe — Lulling- 
stone — Sunset in Glendarent — Schwalbach — The Neckar 
— A day and not a wedding-day at Gretna — Tickling 
trout — Snatching carp — Some other dastardly methods of 
catching fish — Gaffing General Sir Redvers Buller from 
the depths of the Shin — Hopes of finding a drowned home- 
ruler, but no luck — Poaching and yet more poaching. 

Fishing ! The very thought of it makes one's 
pulses throb. From the day when I pulled my 
first little troutling out of the not too pellucid 
Darent, until another not so very long ago when 
I stood over a Norway salmon but little short of 
fifty pounds, that lay conquered on the bank at 
my feet, have I been quite mad (and I am not 
ashamed to write it) on the subject of angling 
for trout and salmon. I must confess that in 
fish other than these two I have never taken any 
really deep interest. I am quite prepared to 
admit that there are men, probably much better 
sportsmen than I am, who will sit up for hours 
making plans, who will haste to rise up early 
and so late take rest to compass the capture of 
an infernal great ugly brute of a carp that is no 

sporting Recollections 

use to any one when he is caught either alive or 
dead, except to gather dust on to the top of his 
case in some fisherman's sanctum sanctorum. I 
never had a fish of any sort stuff"ed in my life. 
" Never caught a big one," says the " carping " 
critic. Well, for the present we'll let it go at 

When I was little more than a child a benign 
providence decreed that my education should be 
taken in hand by a very long Welshman. He 
was remarkably long, and I remember at the 
same time remarkably holy. Neither of these 
things in any way whatever appealed to me. 
Nor did the fact, when we went together in the 
morning to bathe, that in taking a header he 
always somehow or other managed to place 
himself wrong side upwards in the air, alighting 
in the water on a part of his person that was far 
removed from his head. But he was a fisher- 
man. He owned at least two fly rods and 
several books full of flies. Those rods and those 
fly books, and his talk of four-pound sewen in 
Welsh waters, settled the fact that in whatever 
other ways I might spend my life, an alarmingly 
great portion of it should be devoted to the 
pursuit of Salmonidce. I don't fancy that tutor 
was a heaven-born teacher of matters apart from 
those piscatorial, nor indeed should I deem him 
a success as a fisher of men, which he became 


Sporting Recollections 

later on. But I owe him gratitude in enormous 
measure for inculcating into my nature such an 
intense love of " the gentle art," and I thank 
him from my heart for the unbounded pleasure 
that the pursuit of it has afforded me, for the 
innumerable friendships to which it has led, and 
for the countless wanderings through the very 
loveliest regions of many lands that have resulted 
in putting strength and vigour into my frame. 

Poor little Darent ! sweetest of Kentish 
streams ! I sigh as I look upon your attenuated 
waters, your lifeless shallows, and think of the 
days that are no more, when the mill-head was 
alive with rising trout and every pool held its 
quota of shining denizens. Now the Water 
Companies have robbed you of fully half your 
stream, and the fcetid flow from tarred roads has 
asphyxiated all your poor fish. If, perchance, 
here and there one wretched trout yet remains 
in your far from pellucid waters, he must indeed 
originally have been a " lusty " fellow and en- 
dowed with the constitution of a conger eel to 
have succeeded in surviving the condemnable — 
to put it politely — insults that have been thrust 
upon him. Poor wretch ! Last summer I saw, 
to my infinite sorrow, a couple of trout that had 
been picked up from a backwater on the Darent 
where they had lain gasping and dying. They 
should have weighed well over twenty ounces 

Of an Old 'Un 

each. They were not half that weight and were 
black, unwholesome, gruesome bodies, and repul- 
sive to look upon. When I think of the scores 
— nay, hundreds — of the lovely bright beauties 
that I have taken from those waters, and then 
meditate on what the existing denizens of them 
— if indeed there remain even one alive — are 
like to-day, it makes my heart sink within 
me and my stomach feel sadly rebellious. 

From all I hear — and I know the Darent 
intimately well from Westerham to Dartford, 
and have in the course of my life fished almost 
every yard of it — there is not one single trout 
left in its waters that a god-fearing angler 
would willingly touch with the tip of a finger, 
and still less put into his creel. It is, indeed, 
most wofully sad ! Arises the question. Can 
nothing be done .'' Will the riparian owners 
calmly and smilingly submit to this most horrible 
state of affairs .'' 

I heard not long ago that the owner of what 
I think used to be the very best stretch of the 
Darent was most bitterly and justly indignant at 
his fishing being utterly, and as I fear hopelessly, 
ruined. To my certain knowledge a few years 
ago that fishing was worth ^Tjoo a year. It is 
now not worth one farthing. Again I say, can 
nothing be done? Is it possible that in a country 
like this, that is so excellently well governed 


sporting Recollections 

(N.B. — We are very conservative in West Kent), 
and in which the legislation is so perfect (to 
which cases of Morison, Archer-Shee, Edalji, Beck, 
Hammersley and many others bear ample wit- 
ness) that one body of men is able to take certain 
steps according to their own wild wills and 
infinite wisdom which take some thousands of 
pounds per annum out of the pockets of another 
body of men, without their having any option or 
word to say in the matter ? 

I was, not many weeks ago, strolling through a 
Kentish village along side of which meanders the 
Darent, At the side of the road I saw endless 
barrels of tar-muck, which was being ladled out 
all over the surface of the road, the whole length 
of the village and beyond it on each side for 
some couple of miles, and which in due course 
with the next heavy rain would of course find 
its way into the stream. In the whole of that 
particular two miles the road and the stream are 
never a quarter of a mile away from each other, 
and not infrequently are almost touching, so 
much so that the sons of toil are in the habit of 
sitting at a certain place, on a rail at the side of 
the road, on Sabbath mornings, pipe in mouth, 
making free use of the river Darent as a spittoon. 
This, however, although it has gone on from 
very ancient times, has never done the very 
slightest injury to the river as a trout stream. 

Of an Old 'Un 

I caught my first trout in the Darent nearly 
sixty years ago. Which of us fails to remember 
his first trout, and I may add his first a-great- 
many-other things ? but I fancy this subject has 
been lightly handled before. There are many 
wilder, rockier, more imposing streams than the 
little Darent ; many with far deeper waters con- 
taining far more lordly fish ; but there are few 
indeed, I fancy, that possess in a peaceful " home, 
sweet home " fashion a greater charm. Where 
the Darent rises and flows tinkling along 
through Squerryes Park, forming those pretty 
beech-shaded mill-ponds as he goes, could any- 
thing be more perfectly lovely than the vistas of 
chequered shade when the May sun is shining 
through the semi-transparent young beech leaves, 
when one sees the droves of tiny rabbits popping 
in and out of their holes, and hears the spotted 
woodpeckers rattling in the old beeches, and the 
weird cry of their green cousin as he flashes 
across the opening, and the crow of the old cock 
pheasant and the joyful flap of his wings ? All 
right, my son, you shall receive attention six 
months hence, when your wives have brought 
their children to maturity and taught them to fly 
so grandly that they shall anon come rocketing 
down the wind over these lordly beeches, so high 
and so fast that even the very best of us shall re- 
joice when we see the head collapse and the wings 
R 241 

sporting Recollections 

cease their flight, as the poor bird comes down 
to earth with a thud. By the same token, O ye 
who shoot the cock pheasant, does he flap his 
wings in the springtime before he crows or 
afterwards ? 

On the bark of one of those aforesaid grand old 
beeches the late Napoleon III cut his initials 
years and years ago, at the time when he was a 
sojourner at Brasted Place, a couple of miles 
down the valley, when he was living in peace and 
retirement, far from scenes where later he realized 
to the full how there " the gravest citizen seems 
to lose his head" in more ways than one perchance, 
and " revolts, revolutions, republics " ensue. That 
same grand old tree succumbed to the wintry 
blast, but the slab of bark on which the Emperor's 
knife inscribed the " L. N." still survives among 
the antiquarian treasures of Squerryes Court. 

We have been hearing, too, a great deal about 
Westerham lately in connection with General 
Wolfe, who was born there, and there lived for 
some years in his youth. Only a short time ago, 
did not the greatest soldier of our time, that 
" great little, grand little man Bobs bahadur," 
as one Terence Mulvaney delighted to call him, 
stand through a snow-storm in Westerham mar- 
ket-place, and while uncovering the memorial of 
the soldier of the Heights of Abraham fame, say 
many very graceful and well-expressed things 

Of an Old 'Un 

about him ? I don't remember that anything 
was said about General Wolfe having caught 
trout in the Darent in his boyhood, but who can 
doubt that such an exceptionally enterprising 
soldier was a cunning fisherman also ? As the 
Darent flowed through the garden of the very 
place where he was born, can we doubt for one 
moment that about the year 1732 he might have 
been seen with a hazel switch, and a length of 
thread with a bent pin on the end of it, pulling 
out sticklebacks with shouts of triumph ? 

My own first trout from the Darent, or 
indeed elsewhere, was caught at the opposite 
end of the village, and I fear was secured in 
anything but a legitimate manner, but, as will 
be shown, the method was wholly justifiable. 
Also it must not be forgotten that I was only 
eight or nine years old at the time. 

I was fishing for perch in one of the Squerryes 
ponds one afternoon, when a small urchin out of 
the village told me he knew where there was a 
trout lying not far off, and took me down to the 
very last house at the west end of the village. 
Opposite this house was a ditch, which contained 
water at times, but in very dry weather held 
none. When there was water therein, it even- 
tually found its way to the Darent, so we'll call 
it one of the numerous head-waters thereof, 
please. . Spanning this trickle was a little brick 

""- 243 

sporting Recollections 

bridge under which was a tiny pool, at the 
outside eighteen inches deep. In this tiny pool, 
puddle if you will, there lay that excellent boy's 
trout, and not a bad one. If disturbed he went 
out of sight under the bridge, but returned in a 
moment and remained poised in the gently 
moving current. I tried a worm. Not a bit 
of it ! He wouldn't look at it. Paid not the 
very slightest attention. Did not even move 
when it touched his cheek. I fancy he had 
seen worms, not unconnected with a boy, pre- 
viously. This gave me pause. Can a boy of 
eight have pause ? I am well aware he can 
have cheek. I then crawled gently on to the 
bridge and lay with my nose not two feet from 
that of the trout below me. Half his body was 
clear of the brickwork. If a paragraph from 
T/ie Fields which periodical was, I think, in its 
infancy in those days, had been printed on that 
trout's side, I could have read every word of it 
with much ease. What a situation for a child 
of eight, as keen as ten thousand acres of mustard, 
who had never yet caught a trout, but was 
blessed wishful. I got hold of my line, stripped 
the worm from the hook and slowly, slowly, 
lowered that same towards the trout's gleaming 
side. It reached him, it touched his side, it 
went beneath it, and there was a switch and it 
was in him ! It held manfully, and after a little 

Of an Old 'Un 

desperate splashing I was able to hoist him out on 
to the bank. His end was peace. Weight one 
pound and seven ounces, and I am unashamed ! 
nay, rather, I glory over that one trout more 
than over the ninety-and-nine just persons, I 
mean the tens of thousands of fish taken since 
with orthodox lures, ranging from the fifty-pound 
Nansen salmon to innocent troutlings " guddled " 
for stocking purposes from tiny Kentish brooklets. 
But I hadn't heard the last of that trout. A 
few days afterwards I got a messsage from " The 
Squire " of those days that he wanted me. " So, 
boy ! I hear you've been poaching my trout." 
He was a very angry Squire indeed, I don't 
think I ever saw the old gentleman so moved. I 
don't remember that his wrath in any way either 
disturbed or distressed me ; why should it ? But 
what did distress me very much indeed was that 
the spiteful old gentleman wholly withdrew my 
permission to catch perch or indeed anything 
else in any of the waters of his kingdom. That, 
indeed, rent my very heartstrings in twain. In 
his lifetime that permission was never renewed, 
but when other and very much kinder people 
succeeded and reigned in his stead, all was well, 
and has indeed so remained through the long 
vista of years that have passed away since my 
first trout died. As a matter of fact, the trout I 
had inveigled — inveigled is, I think, a more 


Sporting Recollections 

ladylike word than poached — no more belonged 
to that dear old irate Squire than it did to me 
or the village "softie," unless the highroad was 
his property. But no matter ! It's too late a 
day now to adjust these piscatorial discrepancies, 
and perhaps the addresses of some of the persons 
concerned might engender complications. 

" He makes sweet music with the enamelled stones, 
Giving a gentle kiss to every sedge 
He overtaketh in his pilgrimage. 
And so by many winding nooks he strays 
With willing sport to the wild ocean." 

I never read these lines without thinking of 
the dear little Darent, and what it has been in 
the days of the past, when its glistening shallows 
were paved with gravel that was golden in the 
sunlight, and its waters, that were clear, innocuous 
and sweet-savoured, held trout — aye, indeed, and 
plenty of them — that were bright, healthy and 
well-shaped fish. All that is passed, and as far 
as the river itself is concerned it has been turned 
into a malodorous ditch, while its waters carry 
little but tarry filth and putrescence down to the 

Truly its surroundings are, in some places, 
where the hand of the builder has lacked power 
to intrude, as lovely as ever. The magnificent 
cedars, probably among the finest in Great 
Britain, of Combe Bank — first home of electric 

Of an Old 'Un 

light in England — still wave their wide-spreading 
branches aloft, and the ancient oaks of Lulling- 
stone still whisper weird tales to us of the past. 

Who among us can look down the Shoreham 
Valley at sunset on a peaceful summer evening 
and hear the distant sound of the Otford bells, 
" the lowing herd," the " drowsy tinklings," 
and then in the gloaming the churr of the poor 
persecuted nightjar, persecuted of fools and 
fools only, because, forsooth ! some howling idiot 
of the past christened the lovely, innocent 
creature " night hawk" without dreaming of 
that " island valley of Avilion, where falls not 
hail, or rain, or any snow, nor ever wind blows 
loudly " ? Yes, such scenes as these — and there 
are many in " Glen Darent " — make us think of 
poor King Arthur's country, where it is " deep- 
meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns and 
bowery hollows crowned with summer sea." In 
that land " beyond these voices," let us hope, the 
lovely Guinevere has sprung to him and claimed 
him hers, and that he has at last healed him of 
his grievous v/ound. 

As time went on my fishing career developed, 
and I got chances of casting my flies, yes ! and 
perchance other lures into waters far removed 
from the dear little Darent. A long summer, 
when I was about ten or eleven, found me 
fishing many German streams. I was with my 


sporting Recollections 

people, and was allowed to wander about alone 
and unrestrained all over the country at my own 
wild will. A most excellent education. At 
Langen-Schwalbach I very soon found a nice- 
looking little stream in which I ascertained 
dwelt in pristine innocence trout, grayling and 
chub. It required no conjurer to make them 
change their element. They may possibly have 
seen some weird German abortions of things 
called flies that I had observed in a gun-maker's 
window, but from the avidity with which they 
accepted my more seductive ones supplied by 
Farlow, I imagine they had never had a decently 
tied fly presented to their notice before. 

In all my wanderings I was never interfered 
with but once. I was fishing in a lovely mill- 
tail a few miles down that pretty little Schwal- 
bach stream, and had caught some eight or ten 
decent trout and grayling, which were lying on 
the grass beside me. Then to me entered the 
miller, a ponderous person of some twenty stone, 
pipe in mouth and basket in hand. He stooped, 
with difficulty I grant, and transferred every 
one of my fish to his basket, and giving me 
a nod walked back to his mill without a word, 
and I saw him no more. Alas ! not yet had I 
any command of that German tongue so prolific 
in swear-words ; not yet had my little fists 
learned to hold their own when their owner 

Of an Old 'Un 

was interfered with in his fishing operations, 
nefarious or otherwise, in the streams of the 
Fatherland. As time went on, however, my 
tongue I fancy, became quite expert in the use 
of choice expletives in German and many other 
languages, and my little fists became larger and 
harder and were able to give lessons in the noble 
art of self-defence to obese millers and other 
interfering folk. After I had been so " fairly 
downrightly robbed," to quote my old friend 
Soapy Sponge, of my fish by that greedy fat 
man, I was too depressed to fish any more and 
probably be robbed again, so I wandered off 
home and sought advice. In due course we 
found that we knew the owner of the stream. 
He most kindly gave me in writing the freest 
permission to fish the whole of his water. He 
also stated on such permission that any one 
interfering with me in any way would " catch 
it." To the owner of that stream be peace ! 
May he repose on the softest of sofas and in the 
brightest of bowers, and may many sirens stand 
by to bring him drinks, and soothe him with 
rapturous melodies on golden harps ! 

After Schwalbach the Neckar, with scarcely 
a trout in it and no grayling at all. So I was 
reduced to chub, and only small ones. I don't 
think I got any of more than a pound and a 
half. -There were some "whackers" in the river, 


Of «■■ ■ ■ '"• 

Sporting Recollections 

I know, for I saw them for sale in the market, 
and, moreover, years afterwards, when I could 
fairly well hold my own even with a Neckar 
boatman in his riverside lingo, I helped to net 
scores of them up to four and five pounds in 
weight. I daresay they could have been caught 
by any skilful angler who knew how to catch 
chub. I most certainly didn't, nor do I know 
any more about it to-day than I did then. 

I remember a day many years ago, when, far 
away from the Rhineland, I caught some chub, 
about twenty trout and a whopping great eel. 
That gives the show away. Yes, I confess it, I 
was fishing with worms in the very bushy places, 
but I caught all the trout with flies, and on the 
whole had an uncommonly jolly day. 

When we are travelling north, about ten miles 
from Carlisle on the Caledonian Railway, close 
to a station called Gretna, a little river called 
the Sark can be plainly seen as it flows under 
the railway. Yes, it is the same Gretna that we 
have so often read of in connection with gallop- 
ing horses, impetuously planned journeys, and 
hurried marriage ceremonies ; the same Sark 
that gave the name " Scott o' the brig " to the 
easy ofliciator who tied the nuptial knot. The 
river Sark for some miles is the boundary 
between England and Scotland, and it was pos- 
sible in the days of which I write to fill a good- 

Of an Old 'Un 

sized creel with the denizens of its waters. For 
all I know to the contrary it may be so still. I 
only fished it on that single occasion, and I don't 
know why I did so at all, for I had at that time 
scores and scores of miles of infinitely better 
fishing all over the Border country at my dis- 
posal. I can only suppose that all the larger 
rivers were in high spate. 

I referred a little way back to a big eel. I 
got him out, and he lay on the bank twisting 
my line after the manner of his kind into hope- 
less and slimy tangles. I hate eels, /. e. except 
Test eels, and on a plate — boiled first to take the 
grease out, then fried, and then on the plate ; 
and after that meal away to the banks of that 
same well-beloved Test with a rod and line, and 
on the end of it what the gods in their fishy 
wisdom may direct — olive dun, hare's ear, quill 
gnat, or perchance a Mayfly. I would sooner, 
much sooner, handle an adder than an eel. I 
therefore told my ghillie for the day, a lad of 
sixteen, to take it off the hook. He looked at 
me in utter disgust, spat on the ground and 
spake : " Me ! I'll no touch the muckle brute ! " 

On the subject of eels I may possibly give the 
youthful and enterprising angler a tip. The 
mature angler, unless he be, like me, a confirmed 
poacher, will care for none of these things, also 
he will prefer to keep dry. When we are fishing 


Sporting Recollections 

a small stream that turns occasional mill-wheels, 
we shall usually find flowing from the mills 
small side streams. I have often noticed in the 
middle of the day, probably the dinner-hour, 
that these are at their lowest. If the sun is out 
and you carefully examine the small pools of two 
or three feet deep, you will see eels wriggling 
about on the bottom. A hook on a piece of 
string and a foot or two of stick will easily do 
the rest, and half a creelful of the slimy but 
nutritious beasts is provided. 

Confession, they say, is good for the soul, and 
that's all right. Then I will at once confess 
that I am an innate poacher, but at the same 
time a legitimate one. I have never to the best 
of my remembrance taken a fish, either salmon 
or trout, in any unorthodox method without 
the full approval and cognizance of the ow^ner 
thereof. I have inveigled many a salmon, and 
I have tickled scores of trout, but never a single 
one but at the request of the owner of the 
fishing. I honestly believe that the owners have 
taken, if possible, even more delight in the varied 
but nefarious proceedings than I have myself. 

Some years ago, when some relations of mine 
were living at a place on the Darent, before 
mentioned, called Combe Bank, some three miles 
below Westerham, there had been a good deal of 
talk about tickling trout. The general opinion 

Of an Old 'Un 

seemed to be that the successful tickHng of trout 
did not exist, that it was just talk and nothing 
else. I was asked what I thought about it. I 
smiled benignly and offered to demonstrate, not 
what I thought about it, but what I knew. Shortly 
afterwards we assembled on the bank of the river. 
There were present Hughie Spottiswoode, the 
owner of Combe Bank ; Count de Baillet, the 
tenant of house, shooting and fishing ; our friend 
Stephen Marchant and the head keeper. So it 
is evident that this thing was not done in a 
corner. I got into the water at a certain pool, 
where was an old alder stump with a perfect 
tangle of roots at a bend in the stream. The 
pool, as I well knew, contained many trout, 
which invariably when disturbed fled for shelter 
to the roots. I walked all over the pool, which 
was about up to my hips, to frighten the fish to 
their holts, and then proceeded to feel about in 
the roots. I found many trout, and handed out 
about a dozen, in size from four to twenty-four 
ounces, from that one corner. I knew pretty 
well where all the fish in the stream lay, and 
where the best hiding-places were. 

It is not at all difficult to catch trout in that 
manner, not nearly so much so as people seem to 
think. When trout are worried, harried about, 
and frightened they, so to speak, sit exceedingly 
close,, and it is an easy matter, as a rule, to get 


sporting Recollections 

one's fingers round them and hold them firmly 
and surely. But one has to get very wet indeed. 
It is perfectly useless to try and tickle trout suc- 
cessfully without getting into the water. I was 
in the stream on that particular afternoon for 
about three hours, and was blue with cold when 
I had finished. I was often, when groping in 
under the banks feeling for fish in rat-holes and 
other hiding-places, entirely submerged, head 
and all. Yes, it was uncommonly cold work. 
I must, however, admit that the spectators 
appeared to be well entertained, and were by 
no means backward in applauding. I got out 
altogether very nearly fifty fish, of which a very 
few of the best were sent away as presents. 
These were all over a pound in weight. All the 
rest were returned to the stream. 

I remember, after that watery episode, I found 
my way with Hughie Spottiswoode to the 
King's Arms at Westerham to join in with the 
" Authentics " for cricket. I got warm again 
by bedtime, which was, as usual in that festive 
crowd, none too early. That was by far the 
longest and coldest innings I ever had tickling 
trout. But I was never the least the worse for a 

I was once walking along the bank of the 
Darent with the owner of that particular part of 
the country, when he scoffingly asked me if I 

Of an Old 'Un 

had ever heard anything about this " infernal 
rot " as to tickUng trout. I asked him, " Shall 
I show you what I believe about it ? " I went 
to a little pool close by, got into it — it was 
barely above my knees, but I knew it held 
several half-pound trout — stirred it up well, and 
then stooped. down and felt about a bit in under 
the bank. In but few seconds I stood upright 
again with a trout in each hand, saying at the 
same time, "That's what I believe, old man, 

about tickhng trout." " Well, I am d d ! " 

was his only and perchance somewhat too 
previous exclamation. 

One more tickling episode, a most unfortunate 
and unsatisfactory one, and we will leave the 
poor trout in peace. I was with my old and 
cheery friend Jack Hervey, a friend of more 
years than he, at any rate, will care to think of, 
and of endless sporting episodes, at Hadlow. 
There is a stream there which at the time con- 
tained a few, a very few trout ; but they were 
" whoppers." Jack pulled me out of bed at 
some ungodly hour in the morning, four I 
believe it was, and took me off to the river to 
search for and try to tickle one of these whoppers. 
Think of it, please ! A chilly morning although 
in summer, before sunrise, and I was asked to 
get into a river nearly — in places quite — up to 
my armpits and search among roots, under banks, 


sporting Recollections 

and in watery recesses for big though somewhat 
mythical fishes. Now, wonderful to relate, after 
about an hour I found one and ran him to earth, 
so to speak, among some roots. Yes, he was a 
" whopper " all right, nearer four pounds than 
three, I should say — for, alas ! I never weighed 
him. I got my trusty eight fingers and two 
thumbs round him and held him as firm as a 
rock, and could so have held him until the day 
of judgment. But woe is me, I grasped, as well 
as the trout, a root as thick as my finger, and 
could not get him away. " A knife. Jack, a 
knife for Gawd's sake, or we are all lost." Jack 
had no knife and mine was right away down 
below there in my breeches pocket, and if any 
one will kindly tell me how I could have got it 
out with both my hands most fully occupied in 
holding the fish — and the blessed root — I shall 
be obliged. So I had to let him go ! No, I 
couldn't find the brute again, although I care- 
fully groped my way round every corner of the 
pool. I should think he went on swimming 
swiftly away down-stream till he struck the 
Thames at Sheerness. 

I can recall yet another episode in connection 
with tickling trout in the Darent, and it has 
been one of the great sorrows of my life that I 
was not particeps crimints. Although I was not 
present I heard of all that occurred during that 

Of an Old 'Un 

particular mudlark, not only from poor old Ned 
McNiven himself, who was in the centre of 
the stage, but also from the other actors and 
spectators. There were present George Pyne, 
one of the best fishermen who ever threw line 
into the Irish Blackwater ; Horlock, one of the 
finest and most intrepid horsemen of his day, 
who down in the West Country jumped his black 
horse over the two railway gates on to and off 
the line, and afterwards became a most wonder- 
fully good and successful missionary in the wilds 
of North America, where I believe he died ; 
old John Board was there, too, well known as 
a regular follower of the Surrey staghounds in 
the days of Squire Heathcote, and later on old 
Tom Nickalls, the West Kent and the old 
Surrey foxhounds. One of my brothers was 
also present. I had the details from all of them, 
and personally I believe every word of it. The 

reader can do just exactly what he well, 

pleases. Is it the least probable that a man 
who, just for a lark — his last, alas ! — and with a 
laugh drove over a bank and ditch standing 
upright in his dog-cart, would be the least back- 
ward over exploring the depths of a pool in the 
little Darent .? The pool to my certain know- 
ledge was about six or seven feet deep and held 
many trout. McNiven wanted those trout. 
They were stowed away in under the bank 
s ' 257 

sporting Recollections 

somewhere near the bottom and he couldn't 
reach them. So what did the raving lunatic do 
but persuade two of his companions to hold him 
by the legs head downwards while he grovelled 
about with his hands after the fish. Anon he 
kicked furiously and was duly raised on to the 
bank again, firmly grasping a trout in each 

Before I proceed to relate a few more trifling 
adventures and experiences in connection with 
legitimate fishing, I think it would be well, and 
at the same time ease my soul a good deal, if I 
cast behind me at once, at any rate some of the 
less legitimate contests I have had — some suc- 
cessful, some very much the contrary — with the 
denizens of the deep. 

" Snatching " big carp is by no means bad 
sport and requires a certain amount of craft. I 
have not, I regret to say, the pleasure of the 
acquaintance of any carp-fisher. If I had I 
should assure him, on the sacred word of a 
brother li — , I mean fisherman, that nothing on 
earth should induce me to " snatch " or capture 
by any nefarious process even a carp or any other 
equally unattractive monster, if there was the 
least chance of my interfering with the sport of 
any legitimate angler. I have the most intense 
admiration for the infinite patience evinced and 
skill displayed in the methods of the carp-fisher 

Of an Old 'Un 

ere he can hope to be successful in his sport. 
Is a carp good to eat ? He doesn't look it. I 
have never tried, and God forbid I ever should. 
I should expect very shortly to swell and anon 
to drop down dead. No, I don't eat 'em, but 
when by some nefarious process I have succeeded 
in securing two or three of the wily brutes, I 
usually take them to the nearest young tame 
pheasants, hang them up in adjacent trees, so 
that from them anon shall drop many maggots, 
and in death they are blessed which in life were 
so eminently unattractive. 

But how to circumvent the wily Cyprinus ? 
Take unto you an ordinary spinning-rod and 
line, and on the end of the main line affix three 
large salmon hooks back to back ; to the bend 
of any one of the hooks tie eighteen inches of 
thread with a cork at the end ; on to your main 
line at spaces three, six and nine feet from the 
hooks bite three No. 6 shot. Are you begin- 
ning to twig ? No ? Not yet ? Well then, 
we'll get on. Then, having obtained full per- 
mission from the owner of the water where you 
propose to carry out your most nefarious scheme, 
it being a bright summer day, June for choice, 
go and stand on the bank where the water in 
front of you is fairly deep, and watch. You will 
soon be aware of weird, dimly seen, ghostly great 
forms swimming along before you, appearing, 
S2 259 

Sporting Recollections 

disappearing, and appearing again. Now to 
work ! Cast forth your line some distance 
in front of one of these dim forms, and you will 
observe that your hooks are kept near the surface, 
while there is a sunken belly in your line, and 
over this, if you have not been clumsy, your 
carp will assuredly swim. At the supreme 
moment pull, my son ! pull like blazes, and if 
all is well you will find yourself stuck in a carp 
of whatever weight you choose to put him at. 
I grant the victory is not worthy of record in 
history, but I place the sport of snatching carp 
a long way in front of catching dozens of three- 
ounce roach from a punt, even when you take 
into consideration the wicker-covered jar that 
reposes at your side. 

There was a small Hampshire stream very 
much overgrown in which years ago I was 
allowed to work my wild will to the uttermost. 
As this stream was once a year systematically 
netted with a pole-net, and all the fish kept and 
given away by the owner, there was no occasion 
to be bashful. There was a certain culvert about 
thirty inches in diameter and ten yards in length, 
blocked at the end by a hatchway, and in passing 
this one day I saw some trout disappear into its 
recesses. Now the question that arose in my 
mind was, what becomes of those trout ? I 
would very soon find out. I stripped to the 

Of an Old 'Un 

waist and proceeded to explore, I found that by 
turning my head sideways I could j/ist breathe, 
but only just, for the water was very near the 
top of the brickwork. I crawled on and on 
along the weird and watery way, and as I neared 
the end, hurrah ! there were my trout right 
enough with their noses all up against the wooden 
hatchway. Of course they could have evaded 
me easily enough by darting past me and so 
back into the river, but that method of escape 
didn't seem to strike them. Back I crawled and 
got my landing-net. Armed with that I set to 
work. Directly I got a fish into it I pressed the 
net against the top of the culvert and so crawled 
back with him safely. I had to get them one 
by one. There were nine of them and I got 
the lot, and they were about three-quarters of a 
pound apiece. While I was thus engaged with 
the trout a water-rat and an eel tried to pass me 
and I annexed both of them. By the time I 
had finished I was stiff all over, but it was an 
entirely novel mode of trout-fishing and amusing 

If this account ever catches the eye of one 
" Ballygunge," who was in those days a great 
friend of mine, he will, I fancy, laugh a good 
deal, but not so vociferously as he did at the 
time, for he was sitting close by looking on at 
the performance, and at the end of the day took 


Sporting Recollections 

away his share of the trout. I have no recollec- 
tion, however — no, not the slightest — of his 
making any offer at all as to doing his share of 
crawling along that subterranean waterway. 

At the top of the Compton Water on the 
Test, close alongside of that beautiful pool 
formed by the main stream from Bossington as 
it flows under the bridge, is a most peculiar hole. 
It appears to be made by a very strange subter- 
ranean flow of water, of unknown depth, and 
comes to the surface bubbling up as clear as 
crystal. At the top of this peculiar flow of water 
lived a trout of about four pounds — as a matter 
of fact he was three pounds and thirteen ounces. 
He was even in those waters of shy fish the most 
absolutely wary old fellow I ever had to deal with. 
A glimpse of a shining rod over your shoulder, a 
footfall of ordinary weight on the bank within 
twenty yards of him, would send him off to the 
unknown depths of his lair like a flash of light- 
ning. When undisturbed this peculiar fish always, 
so to speak, stood on his head, his nose pointing 
to the depths from which the current flowed, 
and his tail waving backwards and forwards close 
to the surface of the water. Eyes in his tail he 
did not possess, as I discovered later, but his 
crafty habits and the marvellous rapidity of his 
sight would lead one to think otherwise. 

One morning my host, Tom Mann (no rela- 

Of an Old 'Un 

tive, verily, of him who has lately on Tower 
Hill — yes, and for some days elsewhere in retire- 
ment ! — been so prominently before the public), 
one of the very finest dry-fly fishermen I ever 
knew, and I had most carefully stalked to within 
range of, and were watching that fish, who as 
usual was standing on his head. " D — n that 
fish ! " remarked my companion, " I hate the 
sight of him, always lying there wrong side up 
and not a bit of good to anybody. Can't you 
get the brute out, old man .? Surely you can 
think of some of your infernal poaching dodges 
to circumvent him." " Oh yes, " I replied, " I 
can get him out all right in the course of the 
next few days if you wish it ; but — " I added 
with a wink, " it won't be with a dry fly, you 

I made my plans forthwith. I took a willow 
wand and a piece of string with three salmon 
hooks lapped on the end, which I bound on to 
the wand. I then covered the whole thing 
lightly over with weeds and fixed it in the hole 
so that the hooks were invisible in the weed, 
but were close to where the fish was usually 
watching for what the upward flow of the stream 
might bring him. It brought him just a little 
more than he expected. A day or two after I 
had placed my trap I crawled very stealthily up 
to the side of the hole, and inch by inch raised 


Sporting Recollections 

my grass-adorned cap above the level of the 
water. Yes, he was there right enough, and his 
beautiful white belly and spotted side lay unpro- 
tected not three inches away from the hooks. 
I had half a mind to retire from the contest and 
let him go, for I felt sure that he was mine. 
But although he was indeed a lovely fish he was 
no earthly good to any one in that hole, and was 
better out of it. Gently, gently, I put out my 
hand, took hold of my willow wand, gave one 
sharp snatch and had him. A more absolutely 
perfect fish I never saw, not even from the 
radiant reaches of the silver Test. In due course 
I took him to the fishing hut and laid him out 
on the marble slab. All poor dear old Tom 
Mann had to say about it after all my patience 
and craft was : " Well, Stretty, you are the 

d 1 old poacher I ever came across ! " 

Now, does the following story come under 
the heading of poaching, or otherwise ? I fancy 
it might be called " illegitimate angling in alien 
waters." It had certainly a very close connec- 
tion with a basket. I was one day fishing the 
Itchen at Bishopstoke with one Hugh Bellamy. 
We had partaken of lunch at the little village 
inn, and were seated in an upper chamber, smok- 
ing our pipes in much peace, and watching 
the stream as it flowed along by the high-road 
below us. A carrier's van came creaking down 

Of an Old 'Un 

the village street, and pulled up exactly beneath 
our window. The carrier, good soul, got down, 
and after the manner of his kind passed within 
the welcome portals for a quencher — more power 
to his elbow ! — leaving his van unattended. On 
the top of the van, not more than six or seven 
feet below us, sat a large wicker basket full of 
ladies' pretty things on their way -home from 
the washerwoman. Yes ; they were much too 
light for masculine attire. I lay me down on 
the window-sill, and inch by inch the trusty 
Hugh lowered me down towards that basket 
by the ankles. I seized it in my hands, and 
was safely pulled once more, basket and all, into 
that upper chamber. In due course, the carrier 
came out wiping his mouth with the back of 
his hand, mounted his van and drove away. 
Then we also, having paid our bill at the bar, 
took our departure, leaving that blessed basket 
sittins: in the middle of the room. Alas ! I 
know nothing more. But I would have given 
much to have seen that carrier's face when, having 
duly arrived at the house where he was wont 
to deposit that weekly basketful of feminine 
frillies, he looked on the top of his van and 
found it void. 

I once heard of a very peculiar fish being 
safFed in the waters of the Shin in Sutherland, 
and this fish was no other than my dear old 


V :iftief ,;? 

sporting Recollections 

friend Redvers Buller — peace to his memory ! 
Many is the night that we have lain side by 
side on Mother Earth when engaged in hunting 
Kafir braves among the kloofs and krantzes of 
the Amatola mountains. Verily he was one 
of the bravest men I ever knew, the staunchest 
of friends, and, they tell me, the hardest of 
masters. I, at any rate, never found him so. 
And one day he fell prone into the perilous 
waters of the Shin. I had the account of this 
adventure from the lips of the very ghillie him- 
self who had cleeked the gallant soldier from 
that rushing torrent. It is given to but few 
Scotch henchmen to save a full-blown general 
with endless letters after his name — including 
those coveted two " for valour " — from, per- 
chance, a rocky and watery grave, by gaffing 
him in the seat of the breeches and dragging 
him safely and surely to land. The adventure 
had evidently left a very sweet savour in the 
nostrils of that ghillie ; and as I sat outside the 
hostel at Inveran, watching the lovely river 
flowing by with occasional bars of silver leaping 
from its depths, it most evidently was with no 
small pleasure that he related the somewhat 
large share in it that had fallen to his lot. I 
would indeed that the gallant soldier were among 
us once more, and in full vigour to cast his 
lures, or even himself, yet once again into the 

Of an Old 'Un 

rapids of the Shin, or, better still, into his own 
well-loved waters of Devon. 

My before-mentioned host, one S — M, on 
a certain occasion summoned me unto him 
to go and fish a very good salmon river in 
Ireland. He had taken it for the months of 
April and May, and when we took it over it was 
already at midsummer level, and the weather, 
though most entrancing for the tourist, was 
hopelessly depressing for the poor salmon-fisher. 
In our first week we managed to circumvent 
three fish by legitimate methods, /. e. if you are 
so generous as to consider that shrimps are legiti- 
mate methods. After that, it was hopeless — 
wholly and utterly hopeless — and we gave way 
to quoits, losing a few dozen golf-balls in un- 
mown grass, and reading inferior periodicals, 
accompanied by a ceaseless flow of language that 
left a good deal to be desired. The river shrank 
and shrank day by day, carrying on its bosom, 
as it meandered slowly and solemnly by, house- 
hold relics from the cottages above — perchance 
a worn-out besom, Molly Maguire's discarded 
petticoat, Patsy's lost caubeen minus his pipe, 
and a few dead kittens and puppies. We had 
hopes of hooking a defunct baby, but were dis- 
appointed. Indeed, at one time towards the 
end of our sojourn, such a varied assortment of 
filth and rubbish of many kinds came floating 


Sporting Recollections 

down-stream, that we were not altogether with- 
out hope that we might one morning discover 
a drowned home-ruler hitched up by the seat of 
his ragged breeches in a willow stump. If we 
had done so, we should, of course, have held 
our noses, poled him out into the stream, and 
let him pass along to other scenes. But, alas ! 
we had no luck under the heading " Home 

One evening S — M remarked that he was sick 
of it, and should be off to Punchestown races on 
the morrow, and stay away for a day or two. 
He also added a few remarks about the fishing 
of a distinctly blasphemous and inapplicable 
nature. He asked if I would come too. I was 
grateful, but declined. " But, my dear chap, 
what will you do to amuse yourself while I'm 
away ? " he asked. I replied that I would ^s/i. 
At which he snorted. Then I added, " Look 
here, I'll bet you a sovereign I catch a salmon 
before ever you get to Dublin." " The devil 
doubt you will, you poaching old villain, as soon 
as ever my back is turned." And so, after 
breakfast, clad in garments suitable for the classic 
race-meeting rather than for the riverside, he 
took his way for the railway station and, later, 
the races. 

In due course when he reached Dublin he 
went straight to his hotel, and there found a 

Of an Old 'Un 

telegram awaiting him. There were two words 
only written on it. They ran simply " Got 
him." It was quite enough to explain the 
whole situation to S — M. I would that I could 
have seen his face as he read it. 

Later in the day I was strolling along the 
river-bank very slowly and cannily, and became 
aware of a salmon lying apparently asleep in the 
shade close under me. Down I went on my 
tummy, crawled along to the bank above him, 
and put my head inch by inch over his nose. I 
could see his fins and his scales and all that was 
his just as plainly as if I had had him on a dish 
on the table. I put my rod on the bank " con- 
vaneant " — as Pat would say — and took the line 
in my hand, and there happened to be a salmon 
hook at the end of it. Slowly and gently I 
lowered it under his gill and twitched it in just 
as easily as I could have put my fork into an 
oyster. He woke up just about as quickly as 
a slumbering schoolboy wakes when you chuck 
a jugful of cold water into his bed in the middle 
of the night. He made one tremendous rush 
right across the river and threw himself out on 
the other bank. But he was soon in again, and 
in due course came to the gaff, and was about 
twenty pounds. When S — M returned from 
Punchestown he was anxious to be initiated 
into some of my methods. I showed him one 



rtlng Recollections 

or two, and I rather think that on one occasion 
he went so far as to rouse a salmon that was 
soundly sleeping in the shade with a phantom, a 
piece of lead and a triangle or so. So suddenly was 
that salmon awakened, so wild and frantic were his 
rushes, and so abnormal were his antics that the 
amusement was enormous. Altogether we caught 
five, and only five, by these somewhat peculiar 
methods, and I think we were moderate. They 
were all caught with rod, hook and line. Can I 
say fairer .? The rent of the river for the two 
months was very nearly >(^2oo. During more 
than half that time the water was left without 
a rod on it, as it was perfectly useless. Surely 
he would be a very exacting critic indeed who 
would grudge one half a dozen salmon at a cost 
in rent alone of over ^(^30 apiece. I verily believe 
that during that most abnormally dry summer, 
had an expert angler who knew all the tricks of 
the trade happened to be on the spot, and seen 
fit he could sooner or later have caught every 
fish in that particular stretch of the river. 



South Hampshire chalk streams, but more especially the Test — 
One John and his little ways — A drive with John — A sail 
with John — John's breeches — 'Punt gunning with John, 
not if I know it — God bless his lordship's steam launch- 
Memories of the past in South Hampshire^More Test — 
Poor dry-fly men can't catch trout unless they see them 
^^ splashing about " — General Blowhard, (i) as a fisherman, 
(2) as a puntman, (3) as a liar, but the greatest of these is 
Number 3 — Some whackers of the Test — Three lambs at 

There were at one time a good many salmon dis- 
eased with " fungus " in a certain very deep pool 
in the river Lyon near Fortingal in Perthshire. 
The late Sir Donald Carrie's head keeper Ford 
had implored me to get out, by any means, as 
many of these brutes as I possibly could. One 
bright sunny day, when legitimate fishing was 
quite hopeless, I was endeavouring to locate 
diseased fish with a view to " snatching them." 
While lying on a rock peering down into the 
depths of the black water below me I became 
aware of a white patch about as big as half a 
crown wandering slowly to and fro some twelve 
feet below me. Of course, although at that 
depth I could not distinguish a sign of the fish 
itself, I knew well it was a patch of fungus 


Sporting Recollections 

on a salmon's head. I sat down and carefully 
rigged on to the end of my main line the three 
biggest salmon hooks I could find among my kit 
back to back. I fixed a tiny bit of my pocket- 
handkerchief about the size of two postage 
stamps on to one of the hooks, so that I could 
see in the deep water the exact position of my 
dastardly weapon, and pulled the line through 
the rings until the deadly contraption sat tight 
against the top of the rod. Gently, gently I 
lowered the point towards the white patch that 
was still sailing about below me until I felt the 
side of the fish. I lowered a little farther and 
got the point of the rod in under him so 
that I gradually lost sight of my tiny white 
guide. Then I gave a jerk and was in him. 
He fought well and was over twenty pounds, 
and but for his one white patch was clean and 

My worthy host made use of some oppro- 
brious epithets as regards " stroke hauling," but 
was anon more than anxious to take a hand him- 
self. In the first place, however, I couldn't get 
him to distinguish the fish, and when he could 
twig one he always bungled it, for he was a 
numb hand at fishing, legitimate or otherwise. 
Snatching salmon is not learned in ten minutes. 
It is not given to every one to scale the heights 
of Olympus, nor to land salmon from the rivers 

Of an Old 'Un 

that water the plains around that historic 

Were I to give details of all the streams I 
have fished or even their names, from the wilds 
of Norway to the distant lochs and rivers of 
Sutherland, and the more domestic but none the 
less lovely and crystal clear streams that flow into 
the Solent and help to bear away to those distant 
lands of the West and elsewhere the grand liners 
from Southampton, I should weary my poor 
readers almost as badly as would records of the 
catching of immature codlings, of baby whiting 
and " aiblins even a sardine " from Calais pier, or 
a bald unadorned list of trout taken by an angler 
from the Itchen, with merely their weights from 
the year eighteen hundred and God knows when 
to the present day. Ah me ! the glorious fun I 
have had fishing, shooting, hunting, racing in 
that most lovely South Hampshire country : 
Paradise of trout fishers. Memories of the past 
come flooding across me. A book ? Verily I 
could fill a shelf with cheery reminiscences of past 
sport and the friends that took part therein. 

Some time ago I received a telegram on this 
wise : " Come along at once, peal are running." 
Now the sender of the telegram was one John, 
and the place where the peal were said to be 
running was the Beauheu river in Hants. But 
the time was early June, and, as I well knew, 
T 273 

sporting Recollections 

peal-, /. e. sea-trout-, fishing in those waters did 
not usually commence until about the middle 
of July. I therefore cast an eye over the 
telegram from one John, not altogether without 
suspicion. Yes ! I knew John well and loved 
him greatly. I was also acquainted with his 
little ways, which were playful. Nevertheless 
I packed up my kit and some fishing-tackle and 
took my departure for the wilds of the New 
Forest. In due course I met him at the station 
and was far from surprised to observe a pawky 
smile on his youthful and ingenuous face as he 
greeted me. 

" Well, John, and how about those peal ? 
They've started running pretty early this season, 
haven't they .? " I ventured to ask. 

" Peal be blowed ! There ain't no peal or 
likely to be yet awhile," replied John, with his 
usual disregard of grammar, for not yet was he 
an editor. Then he continued : " But, you see, 
I am camping out in the Forest and want a 
mate, and I knew you'd come along if I put 
up that yarn about the peal. Wasn't absolutely 
certain you'd swallow it though," he added with 
a wink. 

" Never mind, old man, we'll have a proper 
good mudlark all the same." N.B. — And we 

On one occasion we went over to lunch at 

Of an Old 'Un 

Palace House, and when we got into the dining- 
room were aware of two wooden kitchen chairs 
at the table among the lordly red leather ones. 
" What's up, my lord ? " asked John, pointing 
to the humble seats. Said my lord : " Now if 
you and Streatfeild are not wet through up to 
your necks, I'll most humbly apologize and you 
shall sit where you choose ; but if you are, 
kitchen chairs for you both, my men." With 
these yvords he came up to me and felt my 
saturated shoulders. "Just so ! I knew it !" 
said my lord. " Kitchen chairs, please, and no 
doubt about it." 

John's father was just about the most charming 
man I ever had the privilege of meeting, and 
although a typical Scotchman, possessed a most 
abounding sense of humour, and was more than 
ready to grasp the comic side of everything. 
Woe is me, it must be a good deal more than 
forty years ago when I first had the pleasure of 
making friends with him, when we were both 
shooting with Carpenter-Garnier at Rookes- 
bury. And John was a very tiny little John 
indeed in those days, and had not yet learned to 
play tricks with motor-cars, or, by the same 
token, to deceive his friends with idle and 
mendacious tales of non-existent fishes. 

One morning John's father called to me as he 

stood looking out of the dining-room window 

T2 275 

Sporting Recollections 

and spake thusly : " Now, my dear Streatfeild, 
I ask you is that a suitable way for my son to 
go about his own village and among his own 
people ? " and as he spoke he pointed to the 
said John, who was at the moment strolling 
through the archway into the village. He was 
without a coat, and from the appearance of his 
nether attire the spectator might have thought 
with justice that he had been sitting day and 
night through the whole of his young life on 
the very hardest, the most adamantine of kitchen 
chairs, for there, displayed to our view, were 
two frayed apertures through which John might 
have thrust his best Sunday hat. I don't 
altogether wonder that his lordship turned away 
with a sigh. 

John was a most expert wild-fowler, and down 
that same Beaulieu river has slain unnumbered 
hecatombs of fowl of all kinds, even down to a 
real wild flamingo which I well remember his 
securing. I have heard on the very best 
authority that his superior as a wild-fowler, 
with possibly the exception of Sir Ralph Payne 
Gallwey, does not exist, and I fully believe it. 
But oh ! John, John, where is that book on 
wild-fowling that you promised to write so 
many years ago, and for a sight of which your 
friends, your publishers, and your reviewers 
have looked and longed in vain ? 

Of an Old 'Un 

Years ago during one arctic winter John 
attempted — being in an exceedingly enterprising 
frame of mind — to get me along with a view to 
taking me out in a punt behind a very big gun, 
and initiating me in the art of punt gunning. 
Early on the morning of Christmas Day, after 
one of the coldest nights ever experienced in 
England, a punt was found near the mouth of 
the Beaulieu river bottom up, and inside it, 
underneath an enormous gun, was discovered 
the body of a middle-aged man frozen stiff and 
stark to the floor of the punt. The body was, 
after much trouble and the use of a ?reat deal 
of hot water, removed from the boards of the 
punt and taken to Southampton to await an 
inquest. Now had I fallen in with John's 
views as to lessons in wild-fowling that body 
would most assuredly have been mine. No, 
thank you, John ! I took most particular and 
infinite care that it should not be. I am well 
aware that he used to appear at his home very 
frequently at hours ranging from twelve mid- 
night up to, or is it down to, six a.m., when the 
thermometer was steady at somewhere about 
zero, frozen to the marrow, but bearing with 
him endless mallard, widgeon, teal, golden-eye, 
etc. John loved it. To me it would have been 
an exceedingly painful and I fancy lingering 


sporting Recollections 

He once took me for a sail in their yacht. I 
suppose she was about twenty-five or thirty tons. 
We left Butler's Hard and sailed away down the 
river, all standing, or sitting, or lying, as the 
case may be — I know nothing whatever about 
it, but I know I have read somewhere about a 
yacht coming in "all standing." I dare say it was 
in Punch, and maybe it contains a joke which I 
am too ignorant to appreciate. I will confess 
at once that beyond the saloon of an ocean-going 
steamer I know no more of nautical affairs than 
a pig does about snipe-shooting. There were 
also on board, that voyage, a lady and her 
husband, both exceedingly charming and in 
every way what they should be ; also they 
possessed exactly the same knowledge of nautical 
matters that I did. I think we three passengers 
might indeed have been Faith, Hope and 
Charity, but the greatest of these was John. In 
my humble opinion his bravery in setting forth 
into the deep under such circumstances, and with 
a stiff breeze blowing, amounted to nothing 
short of the most reckless daring, for which 
he deserved the Victoria Cross. 

John took the tiller. The rest of the crew 
took hold of, and pulled with might and main, 
at any rope that was described to them, /. e. as 
soon as they could grasp what part of the rigging 
was referred to. It was what might be likened 

Of an Old 'Un 

to indescribable chaos, and also without form 
and void. John talked of making for the Solent 
and cruising about that well-known region. My 
own belief was that if we had ever reached that 
most undesirable haven we should very shortly 
have been well outside the Needles and on the 
high-road to Finisterre, for the wind appeared to 
me to be not only decidedly contrary, but' was, 
moreover, from the N.E. However, mercifully 
we never reached the waters of the Solent, but, on 
the contrary, the most blessed refuge of a mud- 
bank, on which be peace, and on which we 
grounded. In their efforts to be accommodating 
and obedient John's crew pulled a rope too hard 
or too soft, or perchance it was the wrong one 
altogether, and amid a shower of most flowery 
nautical language from our skipper, on to the 
mudbank we sailed, stuck hard and fast, while 
personally I returned most heartfelt thanks to 
the sweet little cherub who sits up aloft to guard 
unwary and ignorant voyagers, who had thus 
timely supervened to eliminate that voyage to 
Finisterre from the proceedings. 

Now the tide was rising — isn't flowing the 
correct term ? — which was well. Also John's 
father and mother were returning from South- 
ampton in a dear, delightful, blessed great 
steam launch, which was still better. Never 
have I -loved a vessel with such a love as I felt 



orting Recollections 

towards that steam launch. She towed us off 
the mud, she took us on board, she gave us tea ; 
and her owner chaffed us as I think I never was 
chaffed either before or since, and upon my word 
and honour I think we had fairly earned it. 

One more trip did I go with John which 
lingers yet in my memory, but it was on the 
more trustworthy element. I fail, however, to 
believe that any trip of any earthly description 
undertaken with John as either skipper of a ship, 
driver of an engine, Jehu of a hansom cab, or 
chauffeur of a car, can be without a very distinct 
element of peril to those who are under his 
guidance, for in all of these varied capacities 
have I been acquainted with John. I am, how- 
ever, told that on the numerous occasions on 
which he has taken over very exalted personages 
into his charge his care and precaution have 
always been spoken of as absolutely exemplary. 

John was electioneering and had a meeting at 
a village called Sowley, where was a great pond 
in which I fished for perch in the water while 
he angled for votes in mud. He took me to 
Sowley in a two-wheel dog-cart at a pace not 
exceeding some fifteen miles an hour. While 
he endeavoured to capture his votes and I my 
perch, the poor gee awaited us in an adjacent 
hostel, I fear none too free from draughts 
from his appearance when we started for 

Of an Old 'Un 

home. His trot left a great deal to be 
desired. " So, you old beggar," quoth John, 
" you can't trot, can't you ? My word then, we'll 
see if you can gallop ! " He not only could gallop, 
but did. 

Between Sowley Pond and Palace House, 
Beaulieu, are many corners. I give you my 
word ! we went round each of them in turn on 
but one wheel. No I luckily I am not nervous 
on wheels. I fancy, in those days at any rate, 
that any one who delivered himself over for a 
season to John as guide, protector and friend had 
better be without, wholly without, those most 
unsatisfactory adjuncts to the human anatomy. 
Were they still in statu quo I should have ventured 
to predict a very speedy cessation of all interest 
in mundane affairs for the unfortunate possessor 

What fun, too, the Hambledon Hunt races 
were in those olden days, and long before the 
above most excellent sportsman had made his 
appearance on the scene. What numbers of 
well-known faces can I recall that were always 
to the fore on those occasions. Alas ! too many 
will be seen no more. Poor old D'Albiac, " The 
Treasure," of undying fame, if not winner of a 
hundred fights, he was at any rate winner on 
endless occasions of a hundred yards. Never 
shall I forget one wild night in barracks at 


sporting Recollections 

Chichester, when " The Treasure " sped to the 
winning-post like any greyhound, leaving most 
of us the victims of misplaced confidence in the 
strength of the " fizz " and the losers of many 
shekels. Poor " Pussie " Sanderson too, who 
has just passed away, and who with Charlie 
RadclyfFe was always on hand. Arthur Yates, a 
little different in figure now to what he was in 
those days, but cheery as ever. Billy Greenwood 
too, who was usually infinitely more "done" at 
the finish of a race than his horse, but was indeed 
the broth of a boy and made the pace a bit too 
hot for the race of life. And that reminds me 
of old George Wilder at Stansted and his coach, 
always present at the Hambledon meeting, and 
hundreds more that are passed away, or only to 
be found in bath chairs or on crutches. 

About the best of us all of those days, who is 
still hale and hearty, and looks it, is old Courtenay 
Tracy, who can still go with his otter-hounds 
from start to finish, and still enjoy his pipe and 
his whisky toddy. Good luck and longer life 
to him. It is over sixty years since he and I 
started hare-hunting together in West Kent, 
where he lived in those days, with a pack of four 
or five beagles, a couple of spaniels and a terrier, 
and the best of the lot was a black spaniel. Aye ! 
and we killed many a hare too. 

During the last forty years I have had the 

Of an Old 'Un 

good fortune, and chiefly owing to the great 
kindness of numerous friends, to fish most of the 
Test from Wherwell Priory to Broadlands. To 
my mind there is no trout stream on earth to 
compare to it. I have fished many other well- 
known and celebrated waters — Itchen, Coin, Lea 
and iMimram ; yea ! even the celebrated Pans- 
hanger water at its best, and hundreds of other 
pretty but less desirable fishings ; but I know of 
nothing that has afforded me the same keen 
enjoyment that I have derived from that lovely 
and most peaceful Test valley. It is not only 
the fishing. Nay ! there are thousands of other 
things beyond the mere landing of the perfect 
great trout, although the capture of each one of 
these is a triumph that goes far to make up the 
intense joy of life that comes to one there on a 
fine May or June day. Look at that exquisite 
sheet of flowers, bog-beans ; pick one and examine 
it closely. Could aught be more lovely than its 
delicate pink pencillings .? Where else can you 
find such a perfect carpet as a border to your 
" brimming river " ? Yonder is the pretty water 
" Avens." You don't find that little flower 
everywhere, nor the two " skullcaps " which are 
both here, and in yonder hedge as you go down 
towards Mottisfont Abbey are several patches of 
the gracefully drooping " Solomon's Seal." Now 
look up above you in the clear blue sky. Do 


Sporting Recollections 

you see that tiny speck of a bird rising up, 
up, up with such ease, and then falling like a 
bolt towards earth, only to rise again and yet 
again and go through the same graceful down- 
ward flight ? Listen ! You will notice there 
is not a sound in the air when he is rising, but 
as he hurls himself earthward there comes faintly 
to our ears a sound of gentle drumming — bleat- 
ing they call it — which is made by the two out- 
side tail feathers as they vibrate like the wings 
of a hawk-moth, in his descent. 

By and by as we wander home in the gloam- 
ing, how sweet to listen to the witching churr 
of the poor nightjar as he sits on the oak bough, 
or to his weird shriek as he flits across the open 
glade, or to see the dim grey form of the barn 
owl as he hunts across the meadows, and to hear 
his cousins of the woodlands as they give forth 
their melodious and weird serenade from among 
the beeches. Verily to those who love Nature 
and her endless voices could anything be more 
soothing than such sounds and such sights as the 
summer night comes peacefully on ? 

I believe I could write volumes of a sort 
as to the almost endless fishing I have had in 
Hampshire streams alone. But I find that with 
the exception of the writings of those who, beyond 
being experts with the rod, are still greater and 
more skilful wielders of the pen there is a woful 

Of an Old 'Un 

sameness. How could it be otherwise in merely 
recording the ordinary capture of ordinary fish 
in ordinary streams ? I have striven in the 
feeble words I have written to avoid the well- 
beaten path of the dry-fly purist and the wet-fly 
expert among trout fishers, although during a 
very great portion of my life I have, so to speak, 
sat at their feet and endeavoured to emulate their 
successes of skill and cunning. I shall therefore 
say but little as to ordinary fly-fishing for trout 
either wet or dry, feeling that the subject has 
been already handled so frequently and so skil- 
fully by hands that both with rod and pen are 
far better than my own. I therefore purpose, as 
far as in me lies, only to write about angling 
episodes that appear to me to vary somewhat 
from ordinary river-side incidents. 

I have occasionally read in sporting periodicals 
of trout being caught on the Test with wet fly. 
I have never known it done. Of the Test above 
Wherwell I know nothing. Below that part 
of the river I ought to know a good deal. I 
can vividly recall a most worthy if somewhat 
ancient gentleman who one season about 1890 
became a member of the old Houghton Club, 
and who fished steadily through the whole of it 
with a wet fly and down-stream and never rose 
a fish. 

One day at Chilbolton, when it was blowing 


Sporting Recollections 

a gale from the west and raining in torrents, any 
other method of fishing being impossible, I fished 
the whole day with a wet fly and never rose one 
single fish, and I know my fly must have passed 
over hundreds. I never saw so much as a bulge 
in the water. In the Itchen, on the contrary, I 
have caught many trout with wet fly. Five-and- 
twenty years ago a good big Wickham's Fancy 
fished wet in hatch-holes and rough water was 
by no means an unattractive lure. 

Seated one day — no, not " at the organ," 
although indeed I was very shortly to be made 
" weary and ill at ease " — in a certain smoking- 
room in Hampshire with old " South West," to 
us entered our host, one " Ballygunge," with a 
newspaper in his hand. He was indeed in a wax. 
We were all of us members of the old Houghton 
Club, then in existence. 

" Listen, you fellows," he said, " and take it 
over from this letter in this silly paper that you 
don't know quite so much about dry-fly fishing 
as you fancy." He then read aloud the letter in 
question. It expressed an infinite amount of 
pity for the poor dry-fly man, who, so it stated, 
when removed to waters other than his own 
beloved chalk streams, was lost, dead, buried, 
and unable to catch a single fish, because, poor 
soul, he didn't know where to cast for them ; 
was indeed helpless unless, as in his own sacred 

Of an Old 'Un 

waters, the trout displayed their whereabouts by 
their " splashing about," to use the words of the 

" Ballygunge " snorted with indignation at 
the idea of the tiny dimple made on the stream 
by the rise of a Test trout being referred to as 
" splashing about." Then he turned to me and 
said, as he waved the paper, " Now, my boy, 
out of this room you don't go and not one shot 
this day do you fire until you have sat down at 
that desk and written in your very strongest 
publishable language an answer to the silly ass 
that wrote that letter." 

Now it was the 3rd September, a lovely day, 
and birds were very plentiful. You may there- 
fore be sure that the reply did not take long, 
and that the aforesaid " silly ass " caught it. In 
due course he admitted that the "splashing 
about " was the thing that was not, and that the 
words had been used at random. 

These things bring to memory a somewhat 
peculiar day spent on one of the very best 
stretches of the old Test, during which the 
"splashing about" was conspicuous by its ab- 
sence. It was a week or two before Mayfly 
time that my host (not " Ballygunge " this time) 
said to me one fine morning : " Look here, 
old chap, will you, hke a good man, give 
up your own fishing to-morrow and look after 


Sporting Recollections 

old General Blowhard, who is coming along 
and is most frightfully keen to catch a Test 
trout ? " 

" Hasn't he ever caught one ? " 

" Never ! But he's blessed willing," was the 

I couldn't help ejaculating " O Lord !" 

" You don't seem to think much of the job," 
said my host. 

" My dear man, I shall be only too delighted 
to do my level best to get the gallant gentleman 
stuck in a fish, and honestly it will be nothing 
but a pleasure. I know all about the old cock, 
but I have never heard that he could fish. Look 
here ! I'll bet you ten sovereigns to one that 
he doesn't catch a thirteen-inch trout." And 
answer was there none. 

Next morning, sure enough, the old General 
came along and was given over into the hands of 
the tormentor. He produced the tackle with 
which he proposed to fish. There was nothing, 
absolutely nothing, that would be the very 
slightest use to a god-fearing Test trout, while 
his landing-net was constructed to fit over the 
top of his hat, which was white straw. O ye 
gods and little fishes ! Test fishes ! A white 
hat that you could see about a quarter of a mile 
off" to let you all know that the gallant General 
Blowhard was on the war-path, and a landing- 

Of an Old 'Un 

net possibly just capable of landing a half- 
pounder. Rather to his dismay, the General's 
kit was left in the keeper's lodge, and I rigged 
him up with suitable appliances. But nothing 
would induce him to discard his beastly straw 
hat, and he scoffed at the very idea of its making 
any difference to the fish. Not yet was General 
Blowhard acquainted with the manners and 
customs of Test trout. A fair sprinkle of blue 
duns were sailing down the stream, but as my 
friend " Detached Badger " was fishing some 
live miles higher up the stream, I did not trouble 
to ascertain their sexes. 

I soon spotted a good fish rising steadily some 
thirty yards above us close in under our bank. 
" There you are, sir," said I to the old General, 
and pointed with the landing-net handle to the 
fish, who was sucking down some ten flies 
a minute. Do you imagine I could get that 
dear, good old man to see that fish rising .? Not 
one bit of it ! So much for " splashing about," 
and let me assure those who are not accustomed 
to look for rising fish on a Hampshire chalk 
stream, that the angler unaccustomed to the 
work may easily pass a score of rising trout on a 
breezy day without seeing or hearing a single 
one of them. 

We got to within twenty yards of our fish, 

not ours yet, though, by many lengths. I dare 

" 289 

Sporting Recollections 

not go any closer, for old Blowhard totally 
refused to go down on his knees. I have 
noticed frequently that kneeling is a position 
that these military swells don't greatly hanker 
after. (All right, Sir Evelyn ! All right ! 
This is not to your address.) Well, I was 
almost in despair. At length the old cock said 
he would go up above the fish and chuck down 
to him. O Lord ! " My dear sir," I replied, 
" Test trout won't stand that little game." 
However, he insisted, and walked up not six 
feet from the bank. Need I say that a big 
wave went across the stream and a bonny three- 
pounder disappeared into the depths. 

After a time the poor old boy got a little cross 
— I don't wonder — and said he thought he 
should get on better alone. Honestly, the 
attempt to get that poor old man stuck in a 
Test trout was on a par with the making a small 
boy translate an intricate passage of Euripides 
before ever he had learned the Greek alphabet. 
So I left the old General to his own devices, and 
as I departed I saw him in the distance standing 
upright on the very edge of the river, clad in a 
long black waterproof coat and casting steadily 

Two or three hours later I approached him 
again with a view to lunch in the fishing hut. 
As I drew near I became aware from the swish 

Of an Old 'Un 

of his line that his cast was gone. " You've lost 
your cast, General," I called out. " Do you take 
me for a d d fool ? " was the morsel of em- 
broidery that came back in reply. I made no 
answer to that, but thought a good deal. The 
cast, however, was gone sure enough. " Never 
did such a thing before in my life. Who would 
have believed it ?" etc., etc., etc. 

Poor old General ! It evidently wasn't " his 
day out." He made a most excellent lunch 
though, and was so full of beans afterwards that 
he offered to punt across the river two of the 
ladies of our party who wanted some flowers 
that grew on the other side. They started. I 
winked at our host, but we said never a word. 
Now there was at the time a stiff breeze across 
the stream from our side. The river was swift 
and broad, and the punt was cumbersome and 
very high out of the water. Facilis was the 
descensus of Avernus. In other words, very soon 
did the favouring gale waft the water party to 
their haven on the other side, although truly it 
was fifty yards lower down. Then the ladies 
walked away. I winked at our host again and 
this time gave him one in the ribs, and mean- 
while across the stream the band was begin- 
ning to play. Wait a minute, for I think of 

One day a few years ago some of us fishermen 
u 2 291 

Sporting Recollections 

were looking out of a window of a hostel on the 
Namsen fjord, when to us entered a bearded 
Viking coming down the street in a most fearful 
and abnormal state of intoxication. The road 
was nothing like broad enough for this warrior. 
Aquavit is heady stuff ! Anon he fell prone ; 
but after a time arose to a sitting posture and 
gazed about him. Then evidently a brilliant 
idea struck him, for he — not without difficulty 
— got on to all-fours and crawled to an adjacent 
wall. Against this he most craftily reared him- 
self up, and having got his balance — more or less 
— proceeded to roll himself along and against 
the wall, and so progressing, disappeared round 
the corner. 

It was very much in the same manner that 
the General went down the limpid Test in that 
punt. He manfully pushed her out from the 
bank and poled her into the stream, but the 
instant she felt this, together with a head wind, 
round she came and into the bank again thirty 
yards lower down. So it befell again and again 
and again, until the poor dear old General finally 
gave it up in despair and sat him down on the 
same side from which he had started nearly half 
a mile higher up. Oh that I could have heard 
even a few of the remarks ! He and the punt 
were duly retrieved by other and abler arms. 
It isn't given to the uninitiated to pole a 

Of an Old 'Un 

clumsy punt across a rapid stream in a gale of 

I should have liked to have heard his candid 
opinion of Test fishing that evening. But now 
comes the very cream of the cream, the Holy of 
Holies of the affair. A few weeks afterwards 
appeared in one of the sporting periodicals a 
letter from the General, and signed with his pen 
name. Well, aye, too well indeed did we all 
know it. His article was on the subject of Test 
fishing. He went into detail at some length, 
and ended up by telling us that his best season 
on the Test was eighty brace of trout. And not a 
month previously had that old liar assured me 
he had never caught a Test trout in his life. I 
believed that ! Verily I say unto you : " The 
fisher goeth forth in the morning, he returneth 
in the evening, the smell of whisky is upon him, 
but the truth is not in him." For these words, 
O Andrew Lang, much thanks, and may you be 
resting in peace after your strenuous life by the 
side of gently flowing streams in flowery glades 
and fanned by sweetest zephyrs. 

Some wise person has remarked that there are 
better fish in the sea than ever came out of it. 
That is very probably true. If there are better 
fish in ,the river Test than have ever reposed on 
its banks under the well-satisfied gaze of the 
admiring and successful angler, they must indeed 


Sporting Recollections 

be good ones. I know of trout up to a very 
heavy weight indeed ; of one over sixteen pounds, 
caught with — may we be forgiven ! — a piece of 
fat bacon, and another cannibal of eleven pounds, 
caught by a cousin of mine with a shrimp, in 
the same pool out of which the sixteen-pounder 
came. I do not see why there should not be 
trout there up to almost any weight within 
reason. Many a forty-pound salmon has been 
landed from less alluring quarters. Verily, that 
same lovely pool below Romsey Bridge is one of 
the most exquisite pieces of water, from a fisher- 
man's point of view, that I have ever looked 
upon. What hours have I spent on the bridge 
on sunny mornings, when the chestnuts have 
been in full bloom, and all around was k scene 
of the most perfect rural peace, watching the 
trout sailing about in the eddies beneath me, and 
turning aside for a moment now and then to 
approach the wheel, ev6r revolving in the little 
side stream to prevent their peregrinations into 
the town, bent, I fear, on garbage hunting. In 
spite of the wheel, do we not know that there 
are many finny visitors that haunt the carriers 
along the streets of Romney, who force their 
way up these suburban waters which have fed 
the frequent mills in passing ? Do we not know 
how they are on occasions ladled out in the 
purlieus of Romsey — aye ! and Winchester too 

Of an Old Tin 

— by hook or by crook, mostly the latter imple- 
ment, I fancy, and sold for much to unsuspecting 

Enchanting as it is to sit on Romsey Bridge 
and drink in all the surrounding loveliness of 
scene and sound as one watches the trout below 
in the crystal clear pool, I never felt the very 
smallest desire to catch any one of them, and it 
is not of these fat fellows, big as they un- 
doubtedly are, that I would sing. Nay, rather, 
but of those that lie in the limpid waters higher 
up the valley, where, as we wander along the 
banks, we can but faintly catch the sound of the 
old abbey bells in the far, far distance. 

The biggest, far the biggest, fish ever caught 
with a fly in a sporting manner that I know 
anything about is that taken comparatively lately 
by my friend Major Bartholomew with a sedge 
at Kimbridge, the weight, as I am told, being 
eight and a half pounds. " South West," that 
trustworthy chronicler, says it was a perfect fish. 
To catch a fish of that size with a sedge on an 
ordinary Test cast is a most wonderful feat. I 
know that, as well as skill, which Major Bar- 
tholomew posses?es to the fullest extent, he must 
also have had luck on his side, and I am quite 
certain he will pardon my saying so. In a river 
like the Test at Kimbridge one cannot dictate 
to a large fish. If he insists on burying himself 


Sporting Recollections 

in a mass of weeds in deep water, the fisher is 
done for, fish he never so craftily. If his foe 
insists on taking his line round an adjacent 
stump — yes ! there are a few stumps in the Test 
— through a hatchway, or among the piles of a 
bridge, who are we, with our necessarily slender 
cast, to say him nay ? There only remains to 
wind up the line and to make a few remarks 
according to our several temperaments and up- 
bringing. But there are occasions when our 
sorrow — I speak for myself ! — is almost too deep 
for words. I once, how well I remember it ! 
but no ! I will not, for it was a salmon, and 
does not concern us here. But — ah me ! It 
was a salmon ! I thought I should ha\{e cried. 

I have never caught a really " severe big trout " 
in the Test. I have got plenty of just about four 
pounds, but very few indeed of over that weight. 
Four pounds ten ounces is my biggest. I do 
not think there are many trout of five pounds or 
over fairly caught with fly. I well remember 
Tom Mann — I sigh as I think how many years 
ago — getting one of just over 5^ lb. on Mayfly 
on the Compton Water. He sent a message 
down to us at Kimbridge, where I was fishing 
with " Ballygunge," to tell us about it. Just 
about the same time Mann had laid out on the 
table at the Horsebridge Inn the best day's 
catch of Test trout I ever saw for size and 

Of an Old 'Un 

condition. There were eight fish weighing 
twenty-five pounds and not one of the lot 
was under three pounds. At one time I knew 
of quite half a dozen trout on the Compton 
Water that weighed six pounds each or over. It 
was all very well to know them, to have a casual 
acquaintance with them, so to speak, but the 
consummation so greatly to be desired was much 
more than this. It was to have them " out of 
it " by legitimate means and on the hook of a 
steelyard. I never accomplished it, alas ! 

One or two of the Compton monsters, however, 
had narrow escapes. One of them I had on, and 
apparently well hooked, three times during three 
consecutive Mayfly seasons. He beat and broke 
me every time. The third occasion I did really 
think he was mine, for he was on for several 
minutes, and his gymnastics were assuming quite 
docile and ladylike proportions when our sad 
parting supervened. He lived and had his dwell- 
in the depths of Oakley Hole, a very large and 
deep hole capable of holding a seine-ful of 
salmon, to say nothing of trout. I do not think 
this big fellow ever surface-fed except on Mayfly, 
and then always in the same place in the neck 
of the run in the pool. The first two times I 
hooked him he went down into the deep water 
and broke me at once. The third time he 
rushed up-stream and jumped clean out of the 


sporting Recollections 

water, showing his goodly proportions and per- 
fect condition. My heart was in my mouth, 
but we weathered that storm, and he sailed away 
up-stream and fooled about not too uproariously. 
But after a bit he turned round, and came right 
away down and into the depths of Oakley Hole. 
In those depths he remained, and played about 
at his wild will for some time without damage, 
and then saw fit to come out again and go away 
up-stream close to the other bank. I could not 
get to him, as the water was over my head. He 
got faster and faster, and, with the stream against 
the long line he had out, the end came. 

About half a mile lower down the river one 
day I became aware of an enormous trout taking 
down every Mayfly that came over him. I had 
not previously heard of or seen this fish, and 
never heard of or saw him again. He was a 
veritable giant. He was feeding at the head of 
a narrow channel that skirted a bed of weeds in 
the middle of the main stream. The wind was 
blowing steadily straight down the river. I 
managed with the utmost difficulty, without 
swimming, for the water was deep, and the bed 
of the river full of somewhat treacherous holes, 
to attain to a spot from which I could have put 
a fly over him neatly and without a drag if only 
the wind would have eased off for a very few 
seconds. There 1 stood patiently waiting, and 

Of an Old 'Un 

none too warm after a time, for the water was 
well above my hips. I waited and waited, but 
never for one moment did the wind cease, and 
never did that lordly trout fail to absorb every 
Mayfly that came over him. It was very trying, 
and my patience was not rewarded, for, although 
I remained for over two hours planted there in 
the middle of the river, the wind never let me 
have one moment when I could have put a fly 
over him in such a manner that it would have 
been acceptable. 

I knew of two hoary-headed old fellows who, 
when Mayfly had been on for a few days, could 
be seen up a certain rush-grown ditch that joined 
the main river patrolling about, and round and 
round— for all the world like an old farmyard 
cat looking for mice in the gloaming— sucking 
down every fly they could find. I am sure both 
of them were w'ell over six pounds. 

There were, indeed, more than a few very 
goodly trout in the depths of the main 
river appertaining to that most lovely place 
Mottisfont Abbey, in the days when that best 
of good fellows the late Daniel Meinertzhagen 
lived there. He was, indeed, always most kind 
to me, and many a trout have I pulled out of the 
Mottisfont fishing, and many a pheasant have I 
missed in the coverts there when staying under 
his most hospitable roof. " Meinertz," as he 


sporting Recollections 

liked to be called by his friends, was one of the 
few men I have seen who, having taken to 
shooting late in life, approached, proxime accessit, 
to quite the front rank of shots. As a dry-fly 
fisherman he was nearly as good as the very 
best. I remember a most beautiful brace of 
absolutely perfect trout of 4I lb. and 4 lb. he 
caught one evening opposite the summer-house 
on the main stream at Mottisfont. 

In under a willow, and in a perfectly in- 
accessible place, lay for nearly the whole of one 
season, just below the boundary of the Mottisfont 
water, and close to the road which runs from 
the adjacent station, an enormous trout. I put 
him at not an ounce less than eight pounds. 1 
had stood and watched him with longing eyes 
times without number. So had a great many 
other people, and I could not describe them all 
as gentlemen and sportsmen. I knew of two 
trout at that time of over eight pounds apiece 
that had been taken out — with bread which was 
their accustomed diet — weighed and put back 
again. My old friend at Mottisfont Bridge was 
quite as large as either of them. One of them 
lived at Wherwell Mill, and was called Jumbo, 
and the other in Mr. Silva's kitchen garden (I 
do not mean in the cabbage beds themselves, but 
in the river which irrigated them), just below 
Fullerton station, and were well known to fame. 

Of an Old 'Un 

The old trout under the willow disappeared. 
One morn I missed him from his accustomed 
place — I hope the writer of the Elegy will, from 
his present dread abode, allow the misquotation 
to pass — and never saw a sign or heard a word 
of him again. Probably his end was ignominious, 
and not unconnected with a fishmonger's slab. 

I knew of a six- or seven- pounder that lived in 
a large, deep pool near the top of the Houghton 
Water. I had seen him plainly on a few 
occasions, but had never known him take a fly. 
Mayfly did not exist in that part of the river. 
One day in April .there was — a very rare event 
now-a-days — a most abnormal rise of grannom, 
and I thought it not improbable that it might 
tempt this fish to forsake his usual habits. It 
did. I sought his pool, and saw him at once at 
the tail of it sucking down the flies by dozens. 
He very shortly picked out mine, and was 
hooked. He gave one mad rush up-stream, out 
of the pool, and beyond it, and the end came. 
Half my cast and the artificial grannom, green 
egg and all, left me. I expect that old trout 
came to the conclusion that taking flies was, 
after all, an undesirable method of filling his 
stomach. I never saw him again. 

I know of another fish of over six pounds not 
far off", but he reposes in a glass case in the 
dining-room of the old Stockbridge Club in 


Sporting Recollections 

the Grosvenor Hotel, and was caught with a 

Near the top of the Houghton Water, on 
Machine Barn Shallow, I once had a good 
round with a trout — not a monster, but a very- 
good fish, for he, too, wasjust under four pounds. 
I had had him on some time, and was thinking 
it was about time to get the net ready, when he 
went right across to the other side of the 
shallow, thirty yards away, and buried himself 
in a great lump of dead weeds that had collected, 
and there remained immovable. I could do 
nothing at all with him, and for all I could feel 
he might have been a dead whale. I thought I 
would have just one last try before breaking the 
line, so I solemnly waded across to the other 
bank — it was nowhere more than four feet deep 
— put down the rod, took the line in my hand, 
and cannily felt my way along it, into and 
through the weeds, until I touched the fish. 
He was perfectly still, and seemed to think my 
touching him was some legitimate part of the 
entertainment. By decrees I worked the net 
through the weeds, which were very thick, till 
I had got it under him, and then with my 
fingers I fairly jockeyed him into it, and hauled 
him out, together with about half a stone weight 
of dripping weeds. 

Round about the regions of Wherwell and 

Of an Old 'Un 

Chilbolton there used to be some monsters of 
trout. I have had a very few of them on the 
end of my line, but never a one on the bank. 
I remember stalking a very large fish on 
Chilbolton Common that I could hear sucking 
down Mayflies on the edge of some reeds. I 
crawled in the shallow water through the reeds 
inch by inch, until I was within very few feet 
of him, and could see him plainly. He was, 
indeed, a big one, and his tail, which came out 
of the water as he took each fly, looked like the 
fiat of a spade. I made a retreat, and with 
infinite trouble got through the reeds again, 
some yards below him, and even then could only 
see the outside edge of the rings he made in 
rising, and I had to throw round the corner of 
some reeds and chance it. I sent my fly forth 
on its errand, and thought it had fallen accur- 
ately. It had. I heard a suck, struck, and was 
into him. He simply bolted off up-stream like 
a steam-engine, and when he had run most of 
my line off the reel took his departure to 
Whitchurch, or anywhere else up the river, for 
all I knew or cared. I should like to have had 
that fellow on a double-hooked Jock Scott at 
the end of a grilse cast, in which case the 
result might have been different. As it was, I 
might just as well have tried to hold Leviathan 


sporting Recollections 

I once, near the same place, met my friend, the 
late Canon Awdry, who thus addressed me : " If 
you care to risk being drowned I can put you on 
to three good fish that I don't believe have ever 
had an artificial fiy over them since they were 
hatched. Come along." He took me off to a 
bend in the river, where it was very broad. 
Half-way across was a patch of rushes. Close 
in, under the opposite bank, were three fish, 
some half-dozen yards apart, taking down duns 
with the regularity of clockwork as they floated 
along. Now, if only I could attain to that 
patch of rushes I could put a fly to all those 
three fish neatly and easily, for the wind was 
perfect, and there was scarcely a breath of it. 
But between us and that rush patch the water 
looked deep, and the mud in that part of the 
Test was not to be despised. I may add that 
the opposite bank under which those three fish 
were enjoying such an excellent repast was 
adorned all along with may-bushes in full 
bloom, and it was absolutely certain that no 
artificial fly could by any possibility have been 
presented to them from that side. If I was 
unsuccessful in getting a fly to them from the 
rush patch, it should not be from want of trying. 
I never used waders in those days for any 
fishing, and by the same token was never one 
halfpenny the worse, not even when salmon- 

Of an Old 'Un 

fishing in February. So I simply took off 
everything above my trousers, and in I went. 
I reached the patch of rushes all right, but there 
was not much to spare, for the mud was up to 
my knees, and the water was nearly into my 
mouth. But I could quite nicely put a fly to 
those three fish — fish do I say ? I mean lambs, 
lambs with fleece — like Mary's — as white as 
snow, as far as sucking in an artificial olive dun 
went, but black as the devil himself was ever 
painted in their subsequent behaviour. I put 
my dun to trout No. i, the lowest. He took it 
like the aforesaid lamb, and bolted off down 
stream in precisely the same way that his name- 
sake, of chasing fame, used occasionally to bolt 
about the year 1870, and broke me. No. 2, 
ditto ditto. No. 3, exactly the same. Thank 
you ! I had had three muddy, watery journeys 
between the shore and the patch of rushes, had 
lost three flies, and a certain amount of cast, and 
was " a demd, damp, moist, unpleasant body." 



The Oykel — Most peculiar river I ever fished — Paved with 
salmon and grilse, but they won't take — Fish at the falls 
when river was in spate, in other days caught with landing- 
nets only and taken away in cartloads — A slice of luck in 
the Holyhead express — Fishing in South Africa— Hand- 
lines, rods, and other methods — Also a little dynamite — 
The Knysna — Netting at night in the Lora mouth — A 
very narrow shave from drowning — Keeping up the dignity 
of Government once again — Shooting an ibis from bed ! 
— Well ! very nearly. 

In all my experience of salmon-fishing I don't 
think I ever knew a river with such remarkable 
peculiarities as the Oykel in Sutherlandshire. I 
fished it with S — M every day during May, 
June and July in the year 1902. Our water 
was from the Falls to the tideway at Inver- 
oykel, and a most charming piece of fishing it 
was. Some of the pools looked quite perfect, 
but, alas ! they turned out otherwise so far as 
the catching of salmon was concerned. I have 
never in the whole of my somewhat long angling 
career seen a river packed with grilse and salmon, 
but chiefly grilse, in that July, as was the Oykel. 
In many places the bed of the river was paved 
with fish. But they were non-takers. Not one 
in a thousand paid any more attention to one's 

sporting Recollections 

fly than did the stones behind which they were 
lying. I have gone out in the morning and 
fished from the Falls to the Einig very many 
times without getting a single rise, well knowmg 
that my fly was passing over grilse in hundreds 
and over salmon in dozens. 

The last day of our term the river was in 
perfect order and the weather all that could be 
desired, and the fish were there in thousands. 
We met between us only one salmon and one 
grilse. That was all, and our flies must have 
been over fish without number. A little way 
below the Falls was a rock overhanging the 
river some twenty to thirty feet high. If in 
the morning when the sun was out, at about 
nine o'clock, you_ crawled to the edge of this 
rock and cannily looked over when the river was 
full of fish, you would see the most wonderful 
collection of grilse with a few salmon among 
them that I have ever beheld in my life. Not 
even in Norway during the many seasons that I 
have fished there have I seen anything like it. 
I have often lain on that rock and watched 
S — M's silver doctor or Jock Scott traverse that 
pool from side to side and from top to bottom. 
The fish never moved a fin, never even wagged 
their tails, didn't even go away, simply lay there 
jostling each other. Then came a big spate, 
and I sat at the side of the Falls watching the 

X 2 307 

sporting Recollections 

fish fighting their way up in thousands. It was 
a most entrancing spectacle, but disappointing 
withal, for one could but think and regret that 
such exceedingly meagre toll had been taken 
from the vast multitudes of fishes that were 
eluding us for ever. 

Old John, our ghillie, who had spent his life 
in Strathoykel, assured us that in olden days, 
when the laws as to the taking of salmon were far 
less drastic than at present, a couple of men at 
the Falls with landing-nets when a spate came 
on used to catch salmon in cartloads. I believe it 
to the uttermost, and if he had said wagon-loads 
instead of cartloads I should not cast the slightest 
doubt on his statement. 

As we all know well, there is a tremendous 
lot of luck attached to salmon-fishing. How is 
this for a full-sized slice 1 I had been fishing 
the Kilbarry water on that most glorious river 
the Blackwater, with my old friend poor George 
Pyne, for many weeks. We were wending our 
way to England via Holyhead. Somehow or 
other I had managed to get no dinner, and when 
I got on board our boat at Kingstown I was 
about half starved. There was nothing to eat 
but a most excellent ham. I ate about half of 
it. Soon after we left Holyhead I felt very 
thirsty. When we rattled through Crewe I 
could scarcely speak, and as the lights of Rugby 

Of an Old 'Un 

flashed by I thought I was not far from death. 
My throat was like the proverbial deserted parrot 
cage, and I could only just manage a husky 
whisper to my mate that I really thought I 
should die of thirst before ever we reached 

" Oh, are you thirsty, sir ? " asked a very 
friendly voice in angelic accents from the other 
end of the compartment. " I've got a bottle of 
' the boy ' in my bag and a glass, up in the rack 
there. You are more than welcome." 

Do you imagine I blessed that good man ? 
Man do I call him .? nay, rather an angel of 
light ! He opened his bag, he unwired the 
bottle, and handed it over. My endless blessings 
fall upon his head, and if in the course of nature 
he is now in a better world, may a phalanx of 
houris be supplying his every want, and the 
Royal Artillery string band be soothing his 

A change of scene is refreshing. Fly with 
me, then, across the waves to the shores of the 
Indian Ocean west of the Cape of Good Hope, 
where I have had much fishing of very varied 
descriptions ; where I have stood on a rock high 
above the waves, and after whirling my big bait 
attached to a stone round and round my head, 
have sent it forth into the deep to catch — well ! 
just so, perchance an eight-foot shark, a fifty- 


sporting Recollections 

pound red steenbrass, kabeljauw, or poeskop, or 
whatever a kind providence might send ; where 
in the estuaries, with a bamboo and more slender 
appliances, I have caught in the tideway much 
more acceptable and palatable fish. Hauling 
out monsters on cart-ropes never had much 
more attraction for me than catching enormous 
sharks at Pernambuco from the stern of an 
ocean-going steamer, with a hawser for line and 
Lord knows how many pounds of pork for a 

About 350 miles east of Capetown is a lovely 
little sleepy hollow of a place called Knysna. 
The village lies at the head of a five-mile-long 
lagoon which enters the sea between two magni- 
ficent headlands : on one side a towering perpen- 
dicular rock many hundred feet high, and on 
the other a very steep heather-clad precipice. 
In and around that most exquisite lagoon I have 
shot and fished days and nights without end : 
the fishing chiefly with an enormous seine 
which required some twenty of us to manoeuvre. 
The hauls were stupendous on occasions v/hen 
we happened to get a great many fish cornered 
in a bay. The variety of fish we took was 
wonderful, but, as I can only recall the Dutch 
names of them, a list would be uninteresting. I 
remember, however, that two sorts of mullet 
and two at least of sea-bream predominated. 

Of an Old 'Un 

Every fish we caught was thankfully accepted 
by adjacent inhabitants. 

We once, and only once, I am thankful to 
say, enclosed an eight- or nine-foot shark. As 
we neared land his rushes at the net were 
fearful. I thought it must give way, but it 
held manfully, and of course gave to the brute's 
attacks. As we got into knee-deep water we 
took uncommonly good care to keep the calves 
of our legs a long way from the net, for he 
would have had a bite out of a man's leg if he'd 
got the chance as easily as a reaping-machine 
takes off a hare's. We eventually got the devil 
into quite shallow water, and with the aid of 
a lump or two of driftwood hammered his life 

There was a certain point in the Knysna 
lagoon where the water was very deep, and here 
big fish used to congregate, and occasionally we 
made a party to spend the night and picnic for 
fishing. We made an enormous fire of drift- 
wood, and had coffee and sandwiches going all 
night, and when so inclined went to sleep on 
the sand. One night I was awakened by one 
George Rex shouting for help in an exceedingly 
vigorous manner. I ought to observe that we 
all went to sleep with our lines fixed round our 
wrists. I was wide awake in a moment, and 
saw George leaning back and pulling like blazes 


Sporting Recollections 

at his line, but nevertheless being slowly towed 
towards the water. I rushed at him, seized him 
round the waist and leant back with all my 
might. That was too much for the brute, for 
of course we knew it must be a shark. We had 
a tremendous game of pulley-hauley, but at 
length tired him out and towed him ashore. 
He was a whopper, between eight and nine feet 

I remember yet one more adventure with a 
shark, remarkable not only from a natural his- 
tory point of view, but also from the peculiar 
antics the beast played when hooked. It wasn't 
a big one, not more than six feet long. Far 
away east up the coast in the wilds of Kafirland 
is a certain little rocky island, of about half an 
acre, which one can get to at very low spring- 
tides. On the outside the water is very deep. 
When we lived in Kafirland we used occasion- 
ally to spend a day and night on that island. It 
was glorious ! And the number and variety of 
the fish we caught was scarcely " creditable " (as 
I once heard a gamekeeper remark). I was 
seated on a rock by the side of one of my sons, 
who was fishing with a long line and a big bait. 
He got a bite. He struck. A strike under 
such circumstances is a somewhat different affair 
from the twitch you give with your wrist when 
you see a trout suck in your little dun, and is 

Of an Old 'Un 

made by a pull that calls into use every muscle 
in your body. The next thing we knew was 
that a shark sprang right out of the water at 
our feet, and was kicking about on the rock 
we stood on. We were on top of him like 
lightning and had him killed in a moment. 
Before casting him back into the deep we pro- 
ceeded to remove his liver to get the oil. We 
then ascertained that he — or should I not under 
the circumstances say she ? — over and above the 
liver and sundry other appurtenances contained 
eleven little sharklets. These we placed in an 
adjacent little rocky pool where they swam 
about and appeared quite happy. And now I 
hope no one is going to be rude enough to say 
anything about Baron Miinchhausen ! 

When our African home some thirty years 
ago was in the Transkei, we had, by way of 
a seaside residence, a row of some half-dozen 
Kafir huts made of wattle and daub, which were 
fairly weather-proof. In these we used to reside 
for a month or so at a time, when official affairs 
were not too pressing, and an intensely happy 
time was invariably the result. A more abso- 
lutely free and unfettered life could not be 
imagined. Indeed, when my two sons and 
I were there, with merely a native policeman 
or two to cook for us, it not infrequently hap- 
pened that, with the exception of tennis-shoes, 


Sporting Recollections 

we did not put on a stitch of clothing from 
morning till night, and became almost as black 
as the surrounding Kafirs. Whether the fat 
old Dutch fool, who was Secretary for Native 
Affairs at the time, and thought himself the 
deuce and all of a swell, would have considered 
that this manner of life was " keeping up the 
dignity of the Government," this present his- 
torian knows not nor indeed cares. Our row 
of huts was situated on a little flat at the bottom 
of a kloof close to the seashore. The forest 
came down to our very doorways, for we had 
no doors or windows to our huts, and it was 
quite charming to see the perfectly natural way 
in which our good and trustworthy policemen 
used to walk in and out at sunrise with our 
coffee while my wife and I lay peacefully in 
bed, neither they nor we being so silly as to 
give one thought to the matter. 

Oh, but it was a glorious life and did one 
good. The unfettered freedom of those sons of 
Ham, with my wife and me at any rate, was 
perfectly delightful. One of our policemen 
came to me one day and said that one of his 
wives — his latest and best — was very sick. 
Would I of my mercy come and see if I could 
do anything for her ? Of course I went with 
him, and on entering her hut there lay the girl 
on a blanket, as naked as the day she was born. 

Of an Old 'Un 

My Lord ! I scarcely knew which way to look. 
Anyhow I found out what was the matter and 
cured her. I verily believe whenever I met that 
girl afterwards I went very near to a blush. 
Not she, indeed, but she always had a radiant 
smile for me. The poor folk came to me times 
without end for help in their obstetric cases ; 
but under the circumstances this I felt compelled 
to refuse. 

Within very few feet of our bedroom hut a 
little rill tinkled by among the rocks, and at 
night as we lay in bed the sounds of the forest 
that came to us were endless. The animal life 
of that wooded kloof was wonderful — bush-bucks 
we could hear barking every night, cats, 
ichneumons, porcupines, monkeys, otters and 
many other strange beasties. Most of their 
cries I knew, but there was one animal that beat 
me, for I heard him every night over and over 
again — I could never get to see him. By day in 
the bush and on the edge of it were endless 
" strange bright birds on their starry wings " : 
touracos, hornbills ; three sorts of cuckoos, with 
most brilliant golden and green plumage ; the 
golden oriole, with his exquisite liquid whistle ; 
and brilliant sun-birds on every aloe. Flowers 
without end after rain — gladioli and watsonia of 
almost every hue, bright sky-blue convolvuli in 
masses ; and on the seashore, almost to high- 


sporting Recollections 

tide mark, mesembryanthemums of varied hues 
flowering in the utmost profusion. 

But the trail of the serpent was over it all, 
for there were lots of snakes, which frequently 
visited us in our huts. If they were innocuous 
they were allowed to depart in peace, but if 
otherwise their heads got bruised according to 
prophecy, which was as it should be. There 
were lots of Berg adders {Clotho atropos) whose 
bite spells death when away from instant help. 
We killed numbers of those beasts both by day 
and night. It is quite wonderful, however, how 
soon one gets to ignore snakes altogether, and 
even forgets that they exist. One day, while we 
were all sitting at breakfast, a big beast of a 
snake, quite seven feet long, sailed calmly into 
the hut as though it belonged to him. As he 
possessed no poison apparatus he was allowed to 
go out again and on his way. 

About a mile away from our little encamp- 
ment both east and west two moderate-sized 
rivers made their way into the sea. That on 
the west was named the Qora, that on the east 
the Jujura. To those unacquainted with the 
Kafir tongue and its peculiarities, the attempt to 
pronounce these names correctly would probably 
produce dental fracture. The mouths of both 
these rivers were our happy fishing-grounds, as 
will appear. We swam, battling with the surf, 

Of an Old 'Un 

we fished, we netted, we gathered oysters and 
were happy from daylight to dark, naked and 

At the Qora mouth was the most magnificent 
oyster-bed I ever saw or read of. It was 
exposed at low tide, and one had nothing to do 
but send a man along with a sack and a pickaxe 
to procure a daily supply. They were incom- 
parably the best oysters I ever ate, and were, 
moreover, fully four times as big as the largest 
natives. Never make two bites of a cherry ! 
There were many of those Qora oysters that 
" Muckle Mou'd Meg " herself could never have 
negotiated in less. Many and many a score of 
those excellent oysters have I eaten fresh from 
the native bed by just stooping and prising them 
open, for we had the necessary implements 
concealed close by. 

One morning soon after daybreak I was 
awakened suddenly as I lay in bed in our hut by 
the cry of a " Hadadah " {Ibis hagedash) a large 
and shy bird, close by. I was out of bed in an 
instant, seized a gun, and in less than ten seconds 
the bird was dead. They are excellent eating. 
Then from an adjacent hut appeared one of my 
sons, gun in hand, with his trousers on (his 
mother and her English maid were with us at 
the time) : " Dear old man," I called to him, " in 
this -wicked world never wait to pull your 


sporting Recollections 

breeches on. If you do you'll usually find your- 
self second." 

The tide ran up the Qora for a couple of 
miles and formed a miniature lagoon in which 
were innumerable fish. I had a good seine a 
hundred yards long which could be worked by 
four men, but we usually had six or eight, for I 
always had a few native police with me. It 
was a perfectly lovely spot. The very densest 
forest came right down to the water's edge on 
both sides of the lagoon from which echoed 
wild cries of birds and beasts, and in the sun- 
shine there were dashing about among the 
foliage the most lovely butterflies, while the 
everlasting roar of the ocean close by never 
ceased from soothing our ears. That same dear 
ocean, combined with our netting therein, very 
nearly put an abrupt termination to my career 
one fine morning, but of that a little later. 

When we started our netting operations we 
very soon ascertained that netting in daylight, or 
even by moonlight, in the Qora lagoon was 
useless, for the fish always evaded the net or 
jumped over it. It was a beautiful but most 
unsatisfactory sight to see the mullet of from 
half a pound up to five pounds weight flashing 
over the net in the bright moonlight in shoals, 
and leaving not a solitary fish behind entangled 
in its meshes, 

Of an Old 'Un 

Towards the lower end of the lagoon was a 
bay, and at the shelving edge of this we finished 
our haul. Of course we got to know the depth 
of the water and the channels most accurately, 
and generally carried out our plans without a 
hitch. Picture to yourself in the darkness the 
little procession of six or eight men sallying 
forth, four of them carrying the seine on its 
poles. When we reach the river, so dark is it 
we can only just distinguish the tops of the 
forest trees against the sky. What innumerable 
sounds of the night greet our ears — the hooting 
of owls the cry of the nightjar and calls of 
animals without end, and weird noises in the 
air made by big flying insects, noises that so 
loud and far-carrying are they that were we to 
show you the wee beastie that makes it you 
would laugh us to scorn. It is, indeed, a weird, 
entrancing scene to us who are used to it, and 
who know the depth of the water at every step. 
But I have noticed that the new chum, just 
fresh from home, doesn't seem to enjoy it quite 
so thoroughly, more particularly w^hen he puts 
his foot on a torpedo fish or electric ray. 

Then we strip and wade along up the river 
near the opposite bank, the water being up to 
our hips, for a quarter of a mile or so. Then 
two or three of us swim over to the near bank, 
with one end of the net, into shallow water 


sporting Recollections 

again, leaving a deeper channel between us 
across which the seine stretches. Then slowly 
we drag right down the water to where we 
started from, and out on to the sand where we 
empty the bag of the net. A good haul will 
give us two or three hundredweight of fish, or 
even a little more at times. The best of these 
are mullet of two kinds, called " springers " and 
" harders." I have little doubt they are really 
Mugil chelo and Mugil capita. Then there were 
always sea-bream of two or three kinds, and very 
occasionally two or three very dark-coloured fish 
called " gallune," of three or four pounds weight, 
which were most excellent eating. Sometimes 
we found a beastly great poescop, weighing half 
a hundredweight or more, in the net — to our 
disgust — for they are perfectly useless for any 
purpose except, perchance, agriculture. Electric 
rays were, like the poor, always with us, and 
when one of us touched one by mistake, or 
trod on one, much jeering ensued, for they gave 
a very strong shock, and a big fish would bring 
one down. I think this beast of a fish was 
torpedo nobiliana. I could, however, see nothing 
at all noble about it. There was another ray, 
called by the Dutch Zandkruiper, which was, 
without doubt, a skate. These came up the 
river in shoals, and we had great fun chasing 
and spearing them with assegais. On one occa- 

Of an Old 'Un 

sion we surrounded a shoal with the seine, and 
were totally unable to get the net to shore. 
There must have been many tons weight in 
the net, and as we didn't want the fish, nor 
indeed to' break the net, we let them all out. 
At the very mouth of the Qora river, where 
it joined the surf, was a little somewhat deep 
bay, which I fancied would be pretty full of 
fish. I thought one morning I could manoeuvre 
one end of the seine between this bay and the 
river, and that then all together we could drag 
through the bay and out on to the shore. 
Thank God ! I tried alone, for the very swiftly 
flowing river caught me and carried me out into 
the surf. The surf on that coast is no joke, and 
I had a terrible time of it, diving under the 
waves and fighting their combers. But, after 
a time, I got away from the stream and fought 
my way towards shore, which I reached more 
dead than alive. It was a somewhat peculiar 
sensation, when I was battling against that raging 
surf, to see my wife sitting on the hillside sketch- 
ing, and my boys on the shore watching for my 
head among the breakers, and to know that the 
betting was ten to one against my ever get- 
ting back to them. However, as old Anthony 
Trollopc said in "The Last Chronicle of Barset, 
" It's dogged as does it." I believe it was 
" dogged as did it " that journey. I. have had 
Y ' 321 

Sporting Recollections 

several shaves of being drowned in my life, but 
that round with the surf at Qora river mouth 
was assuredly the closest call of all. 

There was yet one other method of fishing 
that we utilized at the mouth of the other river 
called Jujura. That method was with dynamite, 
and I am yet once again unashamed. The fun 
of it was simply gorgeous. Listen ! and 1 think 
you will agree with me. At a bend in this 
river, about a quarter of a mile from the sea- 
shore, was a pool about twenty-five feet deep. 
My two sons and I were the performers, for we 
never had any one else with us sufficiently at 
home in the water to take a hand in the game. 
Being stripped and ready for the fray, we lit a 
fuse attached to a good big blasting charge of 
dynamite, and chucked it into the depths of 
that pool. As soon as ever we heard the ex- 
plosion, in we dived ; and the fun that ensued 
in the next five minutes was, in a small way, 
as good as I have ever had in my life — rat- 
catching isn't a patch on it. Of course, a good 
many fish were killed outright ; they lay prone 
on the bottom, and were easily retrieved at our 
leisure ; but quite a score or two were half 
stunned and could swim, but their mode of 
progression was without form and void. The 
chasing, grasping, and holding these half-silly 
fish, and taking them to the surface was, I 

Of an Old 'Un 

think, while it lasted, quite as good fun as I 
have ever had of a piscatorial nature. I should 
dearly like to have it all over again ; but, alas ! 
of this one fact I am exceedingly well assured : 
and that is, that with the present measure of 
my waistcoat, and consequent buoyancy of my 
frame in five-and-twenty feet of water, nothing 
less than half a hundredweight of lead would 
ever get me to the bottom. 



Hawking — Ananias and Sapphira as falconers and churchgoers; 
also they sing hymns unmelodiously, very — Chasing a wood- 
cock with a peregrine— Partridge-hawking — Rook-hawking 
■ — Rabbit-hawking with a goshawk — Marvellous art in the 
training of hawks — Good-bye ! 

There was a time in my career as a sportsman 
when a great deal of hawking was interpolated 
amongst the shooting. Usually at a place in one 
of the eastern counties, where a large party of 
us were in the habit of staying on a very good 
and rather big partridge shoot that was never 
more than half shot over, at least two days a 
week, were devoted to hawking. This plan was 
carried on, season after season. On the days 
that hawking was the order of the day, there 
was no shooting at all for any one. If they 
didn't care to go out hawking, the sportsmen 
could stop at home and bite their finger-nails, 
read third-class magazines, or even play patience. 
Now usually among our party there were two 
who honestly liked hawking — our host and one 
other. There were two more who said they liked 
it ; but their names, although they were both 
men, spelt Ananias and Sapphira. These two also, 
as I noticed on Sundays, said they liked going 

Sporting Recollections 

to church, but their looks bewrayed them. I 
never saw two men look so frightfully bored in 
my life as they did during the performance, or 
so joyous when it was all over. Also, they both 
sang the hymns full blast, and at the same time 
most terribly out of tune. The rest of us hated 
hawking like poison, especially as it took us 
away from the most excellent partridge-driving. 
I don't think we ever attempted to conceal 
our dislike. To us it was waste of time that 
might have been more profitably spent in the 
pursuit of partridges, only with guns and drivers 
instead of falconers, peregrines and a cadge. 
Yes, I do believe I am aware what a cadge is, 
but I don't think I know much beyond that. 

Now, peace, you Geordie Lodge ! you Gerald 
Lascelles ! and you others ! I am not goin* to 
worry you with any lengthy dissertation on 
hawking. I couldn't if I tried, for I know 
absolutely nothing about it. But I wish to say 
a few words on the subject as it appears to an 
ordinary — a very ordinary — sportsman who was 
not brought up to the art, for art it undoubtedly 
is, and very high art, too. 

In all probability the partridge-hawking I 
have witnessed, and I have been out some scores 
of times, has been of an inferior description. I 
imagine the country was not nearly as open as it 
should have been. But I will grant at once that 


Sporting Recollections 

the successful flight of a falcon or tiercel (is that 
right ?) when he or she flashes out of the far 
blue vault of heaven like lightning and strikes 
the quarry, is a sight for the gods, and is per- 
fectly glorious. But as to the endless abortive 
waiting about, "the restless unsatisfied longing," 
that I have suffered day after day and then 
plodded my weary way homewards with nothing 
accomplished, has gone far to make me hate the 
very sight of a cadge. 

I have derived, I think, more pleasure from 
rook-hawking in Cambridgeshire than from any 
other kind of hawking. Alas ! I had not a 
horse, and therefore missed the very best of the 
chase, which fell to the lot of the falconer alone 
who had. But have been greatly amused by 
the antics of an old buck rook in a hedge in 
evading the talons of his foe, and by the efforts 
of the peregrine to circumvent his quarry. 

One of the most interesting chases (I don't 
doubt there is some professional expression for 
that : sorry I don't know it, so we'll let it go at 
" chase ") I ever saw was at a woodcock. I am 
delighted to say the " cock " won by many 
lengths. We were partridge-hawking, and hap- 
pened to see a woodcock alight in a hedge in 
the distance. We walked up to the place, put 
him up, and the tiercel was instantly unhooded 

and let go. The cock was off like a Well ! 



Of an Old 'Un 

like a woodcock ; and I know of no faster-flying 
bird when he means going. He made for a little 
wood about a mile away. Peregrines can fly a 
bit too, can't they ? Our tiercel did his best, but 
he never even turned the cock, who reached his 
haven in safety fully thirty yards ahead. It was 
a most beautiful sight, and about the prettiest 
bit of hawking that I ever saw. 

I don't admire goshawking for rabbits at all. 
That must be my own fault entirely, for I know 
many better men and many better sportsmen 
than myself who go into raptures over it. The 
wretched bunny appears to me to have next to 
no chance at all, and then, when the poor little 
brute is squealing in the goshawk's talons, along 
comes the falconer with his open knife, and over 
the subsequent rites that ensue we had better 
draw a veil. I must allow that to the goshawk 
they appeared to be delightful : to me they 
were distinctly beastly. 

To one who has seen peregrines flashing out 
high over the waves from many a towering cliff 
of the Hebrides, from the Culver, or the chalky 
heights near the Needles, it is almost impossible to 
believe that the hooded, jessed, and belled beauty 
that sits so peacefully on the falconer's wrist, and 
will soar away into the sky to " wait on " at his 
bidding, and return again to the lure when sum- 
moned, can be the same bird. There are in 


Sporting Recollections 

falconry many very wonderful things, but to my 
mind by far the most marvellous of all is the 
training of the birds. The amount of know- 
ledge, patience, and acumen required by a man 
who is to become a successful falconer appears to 
me to be next door to miraculous. The pere- 
grine, as we all know, is one of the wildest of all 
birds, and yet the skilful trainer will take a 
mature bird, caught when fully grown in the 
course of migration, and called, I believe, " a 
passage hawk," and by his infinite skill and 
unwearied patience will change the, by nature, 
most exceptionally wild fellow into a tame, well- 
behaved, and obedient servant. To me the 
many records, and they are legion, of the train- 
ing of hawks during centuries in many lands are, 
indeed, most fascinating literature. 

But it is time these records ceased. In bid- 
ding my kindly readers farewell once more, I 
can only trust that my outpourings have not 
bored them beyond endurance, and that in 
some, at least, of the opinions I have ventured 
to express on sporting matters they will feel 
inclined to agree with me. 

Richard CUjt &• Sons, Limited, LoneUm and Bungay. 



quired the world-rights of a sefisatio?iai 
autobiograpliy written by a relati've of 
one of the reigjiing monarchs of Europe. 
The memoirsy which are now in active 
preparatiojt^ will be published U7ider the 
above title duri?ig the London season^ but^ 
owing to the terms of his agreement with 
the perso7iage in question^ Mr. Nash is 
U7iable to giDe particulars at present. 
The ide?itity of the author a?id full details 
regarding the book will be announced in 





Of the O'Flaherty, the Insular Miss, the Soldier- 
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{Author of '''' Reminiscences of an Old 'f/«.") 
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Being the Story of Paul Jones, Scotch Naval Ad- 
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Author of " The Decay of the Church of Rome^'' 
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Ne<w Six=ShilUng Novels, 



Author of " Said the Fisherman,''^ " Children of the 
Nile" etc. 

A fine novel of the East telling the life story of an 
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Author of^' Thor-pe's /F^y," " David Bran,"" etc. 

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Author o/" The Town of Crooked Ways" " The Fine 
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A story of the Yorkshire coast, 1745. 



Author of " The Mystery of Nine," " Without 
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Author of " The Night Land," " The Boats of Glen 
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Author of " Mightier than the Sword."